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Live, from an osprey nest near you

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by Tanya Laing Gahr
June 28, 2017

Safety, Community investment, Electricity operations



Updated May 8, 2018

Our biologists tell us that you can almost set your watch by the return of the osprey to B.C.’s interior—and the osprey that annually take up residence in one of the nests on Benvoulin Road in Kelowna have returned right on schedule. FortisBC is streaming their activities live through an osprey nest camera that has been in operation since 2014. Since launching our osprey cam, we have had more than 40,000 views worldwide between April and September—prime nesting time for osprey.

Osprey are small hawks that feed exclusively on fish, and Canada supports one third of the world’s osprey population. Typically ospreys return to the same nesting site each year, which is why the family of osprey you can see in the nest are familiar to us. The osprey’s routine is to build up their nest with new materials, lay their eggs and then hatch and raise new chicks each year. Osprey will typically nest between April and September and migrate south for the winter. Though some osprey will spend winter on the coast, most spend the winter in Central and South America, flying up to 8,000 kilometres, returning to Canada again in the spring.

Ospreys breed near fresh or salt water and build their nests in trees, on poles, platforms and other structures, including utility poles. Here’s where FortisBC comes in.

When the osprey come home to roost

As part of FortisBC’s commitment to environmentally sustainable business practices, we run an Osprey Nest Management Program, part of which includes the osprey nest camera at Benvoulin Road. When an osprey is observed trying to nest on a live power pole, our crews will place orange cones or other deterrents on top of the pole. If the osprey does manage to build a nest here, the nest is safely removed and an alternate pole with a suitable nesting platform is provided. Osprey will generally choose the highest structure for their nest site. This is why our installed nest platforms are generally a few feet higher than the surrounding infrastructure.

Our program protects the birds from electrocution and improves electrical safety and reliability by preventing damage to electrical equipment, power outages and even fire when nest debris falls on the power lines.

Operating in osprey territory

Even before FortisBC launched its Osprey Nest Management Program, our crews often dealt with ospreys building their nests on live power lines across our service territory.

“Osprey have a tendency to be attracted to our utility poles since our poles look similar to their natural nest structures,” said Roxanne Tripp, Environmental Program Lead at FortisBC. “Osprey and their nests are protected under the BC Wildlife Act which means special permits are required to move a bird or its nest. As nests located on energized infrastructure can be dangerous and detrimental to the integrity of the lines, FortisBC has developed a rigorous osprey management program in coordination with the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.”

The Osprey Nest Management Program supports environmentally sound and efficient interactions with osprey, comply with regulatory requirements and maintains the reliability of our services.

“Our program helps us to provide reliable power to our clients while also supporting a happy and healthy osprey population,” adds Tripp.

 

 Watch the video

 

Home, home on the pole

In May 2007, an osprey pair were observed attempting to build a nest on the energized lines along Benvoulin Road. The crews removed the initial sticks to ensure the safety and reliability of the line and installed an osprey nest platform nearby in the hopes that the osprey would move their nesting efforts to this safer location.

“Happily the osprey couple continued their nest building activities on the installed nest platform,” says Tripp. “The live camera was suggested by a member of the public who lives nearby and had been watching the osprey’s nesting progress. The close proximity to our office, public interest, and relative tolerance to human disturbance of the osprey at this location made this a good location for the installation of a camera.”

“But not every stick balancing act is the start of a new nest. Osprey, especially young osprey, like to practice balancing sticks on things, including on our utility poles. They like to keep our field crews busy,” exclaims Tripp.

We are streaming live until the birds leave in the fall. Watch for major events and updates by following us on Twitter @FortisBC using #FortisBCosprey. Happy bird watching!