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Illinois hunting and fishing

Bill Ragland, left, and Kenny Hogan add willow branches to an osprey nest platform Friday, Aug. 17, 2012, to be erected at Sangchris Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area near Rochester. Photos by Chris Young.

Officials hope new nest platforms at Sangchris will attract ospreys

August 18, 2012 at 08:20 AM

The State Journal-Register

Even obscure college courses can have real-world implications.

“Good thing you guys took basket weaving in college” was a typical comment from onlookers as Sangchris Lake site technicians Bill Ragland and Kenny Hogan wove willow branches together to complete a new osprey nest platform.

The platform, which has a rebar frame, was erected at the park Friday.

Neither man was quite sure how to build an osprey nest, but when they were finished, Ragland admired his work.

“I’d put an egg in that nest,” he said.

Ospreys are large, fish-eating hawks. They are endangered in Illinois, but, after a century-long absence, they have started nesting again along the Illinois River.

This year, a pair raised two young at the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge near Havana.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources natural heritage biologist Tim Kelley worked with site superintendent Randy Hawkins and the Auburn-based Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative to get two nest platforms installed near Sangchris.

Ospreys have been seen using Sangchris Lake during migration.

The project has been in the works for some time.

“Tim and Randy and I drove to a few different areas to find places to set these two platforms,” said Lou DeLaby, manager of operations and maintenance with the RECC. “It is a good project.”

Kelley said the location at Sangchris provides protection for the ospreys, yet is visible with binoculars or a spotting scope from the main park road.

Hawkins said staff members will keep an eye on the nest platform from the site office.

Illinois hunting and fishing

A crew from the RECC set the 40-foot pole in a hole seven feet deep. As they were working, an American bald eagle flew past.

A second platform has been placed in a less visible location.

“The other one is way down by the power plant, and I don’t think most people know it is there,” Kelley said. “The fishermen will.”

Kelley said he would like to talk to City Water, Light and Power about placing one of the platforms at Lake Springfield. Biologists hope another platform will encourage the Chautauqua ospreys to relocate from their present nest, which is on a utility pole that carries power to a pumping station.

Hogan said he is optimistic that the Sangchris nest will live up to osprey specifications.

“I was hoping the willows would be OK, because they were easy to bend,” Hogan said. “I cut a little bit of everything, but willows seem to be the ticket.”

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528.

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