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Chautauqua osprey nest moved to safer location

November 03, 2012 at 08:19 AM

Peoria Journal Star

HAVANA — When a pair of ospreys built a nest at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge last spring, it was a classic case of good news/could-have-been bad news.

Ospreys are an endangered species. This was the first time in modern record-keeping they were nesting at Chautauqua, which was established in 1936 to foster wildlife. So that’s good.

But as a Realtor would say: Location, location, location. The birds chose to build on the electric poles just above the pump station that helps maintain the water levels. A 330-foot perimeter of the nest was supposed to be kept off limits for most of the summer. That could have been bad.

“While we were thrilled to have a state of Illinois endangered species nesting on refuge, we had to shut off power to the pump station, which could have been detrimental to our overall management,” Durinda Hulett, of Illinois River National Wildlife and Fish Refuges, explained via email. “Fortunately, Mother Nature was on our side and the pump station was not required for management.”

Score one for lack of rain in 2012.

“Luckily, U.S. Fish and Wildlife didn’t need to pump this summer due to the drought,” said Brady Smith, assistant engineer for Menard Electric in Petersburg. “We just let the birds hatch out.”

On Friday, with the birds gone for the season, the electric company and government officials teamed up to move the osprey nest in hopes of avoiding potential problems next year. According to Chautauqua wildlife refuge manager Bob Barry, the nest is six feet wide, woven from sticks that are a half-inch to an inch thick and three or four feet long.

Moving such a formidable structure took three hours - and four trucks from the electric company. A piece of aluminum was slipped under the nest, which was carefully ported about 800 to 900 feet to a new pole with a platform on top. Then, the process was reversed to leave the nest in its new location.

“It held together perfectly,” said Barry. “We were able to move the whole thing intact and put it up on the new pole.”

Smith said the company crews spent about half their day on the switch, free of charge.

Ospreys may return to the same nest for years. If they do, the pair may be slightly puzzled by triangular perch preventers Brady said will be placed on the original site so it won’t be level. But Chautauqua officials are hopeful they will raise another family in the same nest next April or May.

“They do quite often,” Barry said. “Who knows whether these will or not? The eagles may take over.”

Which sounds like another kind of good/bad news.

Terry Bibo can be reached at 686-3114 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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