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New Nesting Platform Installed at Buckhorn Island State Park to Provide Alternate Nesting Location for Large Raptors

Michael Saltzman, NYPA

Stephen Brady, National Grid

Angela Berti, OPRHP

Meaghan Boice-Green, DEC

August 9, 2007

For Immediate Release            

LEWISTON—The welcome mat is out for ospreys, a large bird of prey, whose long absence from the upper Niagara River was one of varied environmental issues examined during the multiyear relicensing process for the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) Niagara Power Project here, with the statewide public power utility committing to install pole-mounted platforms at suitable nesting locations. What the Power Authority and New York State environmental and parks officials and others couldn’t know at the time was that ospreys would build a nest this year on a National Grid electric transmission tower at Buckhorn Island State Park, one of the designated areas for the platform, providing a serendipitous opportunity for accelerating the initiative.

On Thursday, a four-by-four foot platform, attached to a 70-foot pole, was installed by National Grid workers, in clear view of the tower where a pair of adult osprey, with wingspans of about five feet, is nesting no more than 200 feet away, and may have incubated eggs. (See attached photo.)  National Grid donated the pole and labor for this project.

“What we’re doing is giving the osprey an alternate nesting location on the chance they’ll acclimate to it before their fall migration to Central and South America, taking into account the habit of the species for returning to the same nesting area each spring in the Northern U.S. states,” said Jeff Gerlach, environmental scientist, NYPA.  “Even if these specific raptors do not, this platform has all the attributes ospreys like, as far as elevation for sighting other avian predators, and proximity to open waters—in this case, the Niagara River, where they can dive for fish.”

The platform is one of five NYPA is planning over the next few years for attracting ospreys to the upper river corridor where their existence was not unusual at one time.  The platforms collectively comprise one of eight Habitat Improvement Projects, or HIPs, NYPA agreed to for the Niagara project’s new license, in consultation with the DEC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), and other resource agencies and environmental groups.

The improvement projects, which will involve some $12 million in NYPA funding, will benefit a mélange of native fish, bird and plant species along the Niagara River.

Nesting birds on transmission towers can disrupt insulators and other electrical equipment and, in worst cases, lead to power disturbances.  Since the late 1970s, National Grid has, in consultation with federal and state environmental and wildlife agencies, moved dozens of nests and created artificial nest platforms and modified trees to encourage nesting in other parts of the state. In September, the company will transfer twigs and other materials from the transmission tower at Buckhorn Island State Park to the newly erected platform.

“These birds’ nesting traits cause them to look for tall, open structures with a view – like transmission structures – and in doing so put both the bird and our electrical system at risk, said Dennis Elsenbeck, Vice President of Business Services, National Grid.  “Osprey have become comfortable with artificial structure for nesting, and our experience has shown that these platforms provide an attractive alternative to towers.”

In past years, the DEC installed two osprey nesting platforms at Buckhorn Island State Park, an 895-acre area at the northwest point of Grand Island, consisting of marsh, meadows and woods.

“While those platforms haven’t led to nests yet, the discovery of ospreys on the Grid tower is a positive sign for reintroducing the species to the area. Our hope is that enhanced wetland and aquatic-habitat improvement projects like those planned by NYPA will contribute to drawing ospreys and other wildlife to Buckhorn Marsh and other habitats along the upper Niagara River corridor,” said Mark Kandel, DEC regional wildlife manager.

The OPRHP manages Buckhorn Island, which is one of the largest remaining marshes on the Niagara River, featuring large numbers and diverse species of gulls and other birds such as least bittern, northern harrier, sedge wren and common tern. The marsh also serves as a feeding area for ducks, coots, moorhens and rails—and now ospreys.

“We are pleased that these ospreys have found their home in Buckhorn Island State Park, and that NYPA and National Grid are taking measures to provide them with the safety they need to continue their future nesting here,” said Mark Thomas, director of the Western Region of OPRHP.

He also noted that bald eagles have nested at Navy Island in Ontario, across from Buckhorn Marsh, providing the possibility that they might utilize the new osprey platform, or the two previously installed by DEC at the park preserve. 

Pole-mounted platforms have been successfully used for establishment of osprey nests near Lakes Erie and Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and in other parts of the state. They include one at the Power Authority’s St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Project in Northern New York (shown in second photo), one of several the Authority has erected at riverfront sites by the hydroelectric project.

The platform at Buckhorn Marsh and the others by NYPA are made of galvanized steel and manufactured by Jeffords Steel of Potsdam. The platforms are attached to the poles about five feet from the top, below a perch for adult ospreys to sit on. The poles also feature predator guards to prevent other animals from reaching the nests.

Photos and Captions

  About NYPA:

 ■    NYPA uses no tax money or state credit.  It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity.  ■    NYPA is a leader in promoting energy-efficiency, new energy technologies and electric transportation initiatives.  ■    It is the nation’s largest state-owned electric utility, with 18 generating facilities in various parts of the state and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines.

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