A large osprey nest atop a platform-fitted power pole built by Vermont Electric Cooperative is a beloved landmark for drivers on Lake Champlain’s Missisquoi Bay Bridge. So, when the nest crashed to the ground recently with three baby birds inside, members and VEC crews flew into action.
A co-op family discovered the fallen nest on their daily drive home and alerted a local wildlife rescue group, which reached the VEC control center during its off hours.
Osprey nestlings risk abandonment and death if they’re separated from their parents for too long.
“When I called VEC, I told them that if we can get that nest up by the next morning, there would be a chance the parents could continue to care for the fledglings,” said Carol Winfield, president of the Vermont Wildlife Rehabilitation Association and a co-op member. “VEC really rallied.”
Brian Sylvester, system operator, and Isaac Gillen, operations supervisor for the Johnson-based co-op, agreed to have a crew at the site the next day to rehabilitate and raise the plat¬form and nest.
“They were fantastic,” said Winfield. “They got a new platform up and rebuilt the nest and even added a stick for a perch.”
By 11:30 a.m., a VEC bucket truck was lifting a lineworker and Winfield’s daughter, Clara, with two of the young ospreys up to the raptors’ new home. The third nestling suffered injuries and required extra care.
“Just a couple minutes after the babies were put back in the nest and the VEC cherry picker dropped down, the mama was back,” Winfield said. “From start to finish, the whole process was less than 18 hours.”
Watching on the ground with Winfield was VEC member Jenn Fenn, who first noticed the nest had fallen.
“My kids are serious bird enthusiasts, so when we travel to and from day care, we keep an eye on the ospreys,” she said. “I’m so thankful to VEC for their help in getting these fledglings back in their nest.”
VEC built the platform and five others around the Champlain Island area years ago to encourage the raptors to nest away from the co-op’s 46-kilovolt line.
After the recent incident, the platforms will be checked more frequently for deterioration during the ospreys’ migration period, said Andrea Cohen, VEC’s government affairs and member relations manager.
“We all love these birds,” she said. “Over the years, members have been seeing our trucks and workers out there rehabbing these platforms. When our members called, our team was ready to jump in with the local volunteers, so this story has a good ending.”
Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA.