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Apr 11, 2018 7:53 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

PSEG Removes Osprey Nest From Riverside Utility Pole; Pledges To Install New Pole With Platform

This osprey pair sit atop an electrical pole when their nest used to be along Flanders Road in Riverside on Monday. DANA SHAW
Apr 11, 2018 1:01 PM

What does someone do when their home is bulldozed without notice?

That’s the conundrum that a pair of stressed-out osprey found themselves in on Monday morning after workers with Elecnor Hawkeye, a Hauppauge-based company contracted by PSEG Long Island, destroyed their nest—intricately crafted with sticks, moss, bark and grass—that had been situated atop a utility pole on Flanders Road in Riverside.

But all is well, according to PSEG officials, who noted on Wednesday morning that crews were installing a new pole with a fiberglass platform on it for the birds to rebuild their nest—after a sustained public outcry early in the week that included the creation of a Facebook page and a planned public demonstration.

The nest was a fire hazard, according to PSEG spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler, who this week defended the utility’s decision to abruptly evict the pair of hawks­­—much to the dismay of local residents. PSEG had secured State Department of Environmental Conservation approvals before hiring Elecnor Hawkeye to remove the nest from the pole. Parts of the nest were strewn about the shoulder of Flanders Road and in nearby trees following its removal.

Ms. Flagler stressed in an email on Monday that her agency approved the nest’s removal earlier that day because it posed a fire hazard and was unsafe for the osprey. She also noted that there were no eggs in the nest at the time, and that no young flightless hawks were present.

“We had two reports of arcing wires at that location over the weekend, so we removed the nest today before the birds return and start nesting,” Ms. Flagler said in an email. “It is safer for the birds and the electric system to remove the nest before it catches fire and causes an outage affecting a large area of customers. It would be worse if the birds laid their eggs, have chicks and the nest caught fire.”

But that did little to appease those in the community outraged over the abrupt manner in which the nest was removed, or stop them from voicing their concerns about the fate of the osprey now that their home was destroyed.

Terry Flanagan of Flanders, who raced to the area on Monday after learning from a relative that someone had taken it down, started organizing a protest for weekend, next to the utility pole to demand that PSEG install a new pole in the area for the displaced hawks to nest on because he didn't think the electric services company was initially moving fast enough to solve the problem.

On Monday he even created a Facebook page, called “Homeless Ospreys,” that boasts more than 300 followers. The Facebook page has several posts from users voicing concerns about the hawks and stating their support for the rally, that is now canceled.

Ms. Flagler, noted on Wednesday morning that the utility was, in fact, installing a new pole for the ospreys.

“We are replacing the existing pole with a taller pole that has a state-of-the-art fiberglass platform on top so the birds can safely build their nest in close proximity to the original nesting area and away from the power lines,” she said in an email Wednesday morning.

Once Mr. Flanagan saw the work being done on the new pole, he called the march off: "It's canceled—that was deal," he said.

A receptionist for the contractor Elecnor Hawkeye said the project manager, whose name was not disclosed, was referring all questions about the nest removal to PSEG.

Southampton Town Police Lieutenant Susan Ralph said her department received a complaint about the nest’s removal at 10:46 a.m. on Monday. She deferred all questions about the incident to the DEC, explaining that it is taking the lead on the investigation.

Mr. Flanagan said he became concerned for the well-being of the osprey immediately after learning from a family member that the nest, which had been situated on a utility pole near the Tyre Masonic Lodge in Riverside, had been removed. He said he raced down to see what was happening and that he “was more than a little bit pissed off” upon seeing what had taken place.

Mr. Flanagan said he cherished the nest’s presence in his neighborhood, pointing to the steep decline of the species several decades ago, when the insecticide DDT was causing osprey eggs to thin and break, drastically lowering birth rates. He pointed to this decline when he explained his frustration with the nest being taken down.

Since the early 1970s, when New York banned the use of DDT, the species has been making a comeback, according to an osprey fact sheet on the State DEC website. Though they are no longer an endangered species—a designation that was removed in 1983—osprey are still listed as a species of “special concern” in the state.

PSEG had asked for the removal of the nest on Monday after observing the arcing power lines near it this past weekend, according to the DEC. Utility representatives had expressed concerns that the situation could have caused a transformer fire, resulting in power outages.

DEC officials said their information indicated that it was inactive—but two osprey could clearly be seen circling and perching on the utility pole on Monday after the nest was removed, and in fact immediately began rebuilding in the same spot.

Ms. Flagler explained that when a nest is inactive, it means that there are no eggs or flightless young inside­—points confirmed by experts.

“We hope by removing the nest from this dangerous situation, when the birds begin to rebuild, the new location will be safe,” Ms. Flagler said in an email.

At this point in the season, osprey can and often do have the ability to re-nest if a nest is disturbed, according to the DEC. Michael Scheibel, The Nature Conservancy’s natural resources manager for the Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island, noted that the nesting season for osprey starts on March 15, and that the first eggs typically don’t appear until the end of April.

He also said that most osprey are particular about the places they pick to nest, explaining that they prefer to have a 360-degree view of their surroundings.

“It sounds like a reasonable thing to have been done,” Mr. Scheibel added, referring to the removal of the nest in Riverside, though he also noted he was unfamiliar with the specifics of that decision.

But Aaron Virgin, vice president of Group for the East End, who studies the migration of local osprey, said this week that even though no eggs were present in the nest, the ideal time to remove it would have been over the winter when the hawks were still migrating. “The nest should have been removed before the birds got back,” he added.

In general, anyone wishing to remove an osprey nest after March 15 must contact the DEC so the agency can examine the nest for eggs and flightless birds. If a nest is removed after March 15 without DEC permission, the offending party can be hit with both state and federal violations for destroying the nest of a protected bird species, according to authorities.

Mr. Virgin did note that it was prudent of PSEG to order the nest’s removal before the osprey laid eggs. At the same time, he said the utility did have other options, such as lowering the nearby power lines or installing a taller platform and relocating the nest.

He added that he hopes that PSEG learns from this experience, noting that the utility can place cones atop those poles that support power lines to prevent birds from nesting there.

Mr. Virgin also said it was normal for the osprey to appear stressed under such conditions before adding that they still have ample time to rebuild their home before laying eggs. He pointed out that some nests can be constructed in less than a day.

Still, Mr. Flanagan described the abrupt removal of the osprey nest as “insane.”

“The bird’s nest is in pieces all over the side of the road,” Mr. Flanagan observed on Monday. “The two birds were flying around looking for the nest.”

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By mimoomi, lindenhurst on Apr 9, 18 3:29 PM
Their looking for it!!
By MelissaA (54), Sag Harbor on Apr 9, 18 4:33 PM
" . . . DEC officials said their information indicated that the osprey nest was inactive."

Why -- because the DEC could not see any ospreys from Albany?

You can't make this stuff up!

That nest has been one of the most active on the South Fork for years and years.

Another fine job by the myopic DEC.

Fiddle Fiddle Fiddle !!!
By Nero (301), Sag Harbor on Apr 9, 18 4:50 PM
The nest was active. What agency has a record of this report of wires arcing? Southampton Town PD, Riverhead FD? In addition to ripping this nest out, they left all the pieces in the road and on private property. It is not all organic material, the birds use cloth and plastic in their nests.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Apr 9, 18 5:06 PM
They were in their nest over the weekend. While waiting at the light to turn onto 24 I pointed out the pair To my grand children. Unoccupied my ***
By fish sticks (53), hampton bays on Apr 9, 18 6:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
They were in their nest over the weekend. While waiting at the light to turn onto 24 I pointed out the pair To my grand children. Unoccupied my ***
By fish sticks (53), hampton bays on Apr 9, 18 6:42 PM
So put in a plain pole with a platform!
By RUOK2 (15), Water Mill on Apr 9, 18 7:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
Absolutely no reason why a pole couldn't have been erected nearby and nest (or most of it) relocated. Of course it would have been more work than simply destroying what was there. DEC dropped the ball and PSEG was overzealous. No one wants to see them zapped but this eviction was pretty cruel and could have been handled better.
By dogtired (29), north sea on Apr 9, 18 8:45 PM
According to DEC officials, PSEG spotted these arcing power lines over the weekend. That was plenty of time to erect a plain pole with a platform before tearing down this important nest.

What if the female Osprey is ready to lay eggs? Now where does she go?

Ospreys not only mate for life but they raise their young in the same nest year after year
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Apr 10, 18 7:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
Who from DEC said it was inactive?
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Apr 10, 18 8:31 AM
Does this mean we can use DDT again?
By joeg (31), Hampton Bays on Apr 10, 18 8:40 AM
1 member liked this comment
I loved seeing them year after year. They should erect a stand for the nest
nearby and they should have tried to save the nest and place it on the new
stand. Shame on them. These osprey had a big following. I am going to miss them.
By localcitizen (110), Southampton on Apr 10, 18 8:52 AM
1 member liked this comment
There’s a great article on line , including video footage of utilitiy workers in NEw Jersey successfully relocating an Osprey Nest from the top of an electric pole in Feb 2017.
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Apr 10, 18 8:58 AM
I went into Riverhead well over a week ago and saw an osprey in the nest. Sunday four of us were in the car and remarked how wonderful to see the pair of ospreys in the nest sitting up high and proud.
Someone is lying. Either PSE&G or the contractor. But it's up to PSE&G to set it right NOW.
By baywoman (165), southampton on Apr 10, 18 9:07 AM
Disgusting and heartless. DEC should be ashamed of themselves. This pair nests here every year, and I'm sure you could tell by the state the nest was in that it was newly reconstructed. After all those storms there would be a wreck of a nest, not a nice neat circle of twigs and etc. They should have been more proactive by installing a platform in the immediate vicinity first.
By Melissabee (4), brookhaven on Apr 10, 18 10:36 AM
This is the same "insane" DEC that wants to kill all our Swans
By The Crow's Nest (65), Red Creek on Apr 10, 18 11:01 AM
You can thank Governor Cuomo for the continued existence of LIPA the leech and therefore PSEG the parasite. Why do we still have LIPA 36 years after Shoreham? Answer: so that Andrew Cuomo can fill the LIPA board with his crony campaign contributors.
Nixon for Governor!
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Apr 10, 18 11:37 AM
Cuomo also just oversaw cutting down 60 acres of pinebarrens in Mastic under the guise of being green for solar power. He is a disgusting hypocrite!!!
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Apr 10, 18 11:45 AM
1 member liked this comment
Where in riverside was the nest?
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Apr 10, 18 1:36 PM
And the homeless. The jobless veteran. The multi family immigrants Welfare recipients. Non insured resident that still pay taxes. FIGHT for a real cause. Animals are meant to fend for themselves. Really
By Scottjabo (1), Southampton on Apr 10, 18 10:06 PM
All very good causes for you to fight for (if you are so compelled). The fate of the osprey is worthy of the comments written. You might remember that humankind nearly wiped them out through the use of DDT. But people paid attention and gave these magnificent creatures the help they needed when they could not fend for themselves.
Every egg that hatches - every chick that fledges is a success. And should serve as a reminder that even when mistakes are made, there is action that can be taken to ...more
By dogtired (29), north sea on Apr 11, 18 9:19 AM
What have YOU done Mr. Quiote?
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Apr 12, 18 1:40 PM
The osprey are welcome and beloved life-long residents of the East End. The unasked question, however, is why is PSEnG still installing wires overhead, rather than underground, like every other utility ? This is some of the most valuable real estate in the country, yet I have received a notice that outside my house they intend to install higher and stronger poles with thicker wiring ripping appalling gashes through the trees each year.
Yes, it would cost more to put the wires underground. But ...more
By kenmotor (3), Southampton on Apr 12, 18 12:06 PM
I regret mistakenly laying the blame for this intolerable situation on PSEnG -- no angels themselves ! Clearly it is Verizon who are the malefactors, and whose contractors, Aplundh, makes a fortune year after year ripping our trees to shreds. The French-owned parent company, Altice, would never get away with despoiling the French countryside in this manner.
Tuckahow homeowner.
By kenmotor (3), Southampton on Apr 12, 18 3:02 PM
Ken, you were right, it was a contractor, for PSE&G, electric has nothing to do with verizon.
The article was about Ospreys, not trimming trees, underground wiring and the golf clubs.
Subject Ospreys...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Apr 15, 18 9:24 PM
Ken, you were right, it was a contractor, for PSE&G, electric has nothing to do with verizon.
The article was about Ospreys, not trimming trees, underground wiring and the golf clubs.
Subject Ospreys...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Apr 15, 18 9:25 PM