While Michiganders shoveled their way through polar vortices this past winter, ospreys were flying high in the warm temperatures of South America. Now the birds of prey are back in Southeast Michigan and headed home to the same exact nests they left last fall.
When a pair of the raptors returned earlier this month to their home of four years – a nest inside a tornado siren in Brownstown Township near Lake Erie Metro Park, they quickly decided the location was perhaps a bit too noisy and set their sites on a nearby utility pole with attached power lines.
Concerned for the safety of the birds, metro park staff notified DTE and together, the organizations along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hatched a plan to protect the feathery flock.
“For the safety of people and the safety of the birds, the nest and debris had to come down. It could’ve caused power outages, or a fire.” said Kristen LeForce, an environmental engineer at DTE. “Moving the nest was the best situation. It’s safer for everyone, including the birds.”
The adventure took flight early Friday afternoon, when DTE lineworkers installed a new pole inside the metropark, with a platform attached for the nest. Crews went up in a bucket truck to safely remove two eggs from the nest. The eggs were temporarily placed in a cooler, while the nest was removed from DTE equipment, and driven over to the new platform.
Passersby lined one side of the two-lane road to watch, as mama and papa birds hovered, sometimes swooping down in an effort to protect their eggs. The pair eventually retreated to nearby trees to watch the work progress.
Ospreys feed mainly on fish and nest near bodies of water. When scouting locations for a new nest, the birds of prey are drawn to power poles – the height of the poles provides safety from other creatures, and the cross-arms provide a solid platform to hold the nest.
The osprey population neared extinction in the 1970s due to the extensive use of the pesticide DDT. DTE has been a key partner in the effort to return osprey to southeast Michigan, by helping to fund GPS transmitters to locate migrating birds and moving nests from unsafe locations. In the past five years, the company has moved one nest per year on average, LeForce said.
William Markovich, a lineman at the Newport Service Center, remembers listening to his dad Mike Markovich, a retired DTE lineworker, tell stories about moving nests of osprey and other birds. On Friday, William got to experience it for himself.
“It’s cool we get to be a part of this,” said the younger Markovich, an avid hunter and fisherman. “We get to see these birds all the time when we’re out here working.”
Nearly two dozen onlookers stood by to watch the reuniting of the mama and papa birds with their eggs. The pair circled the nest for nearly 45 minutes before settling in.
“That’s it,” LeForce said once the birds landed in the nest. “That’s exactly what we wanted to happen.”