June 27, 2011

CMP to remove osprey nests

By Betty Adams
Staff Writer

LITCHFIELD -- Ospreys nesting atop tall utility poles in Litchfield have a nonfeathered champion in Rebecca Loveland.

click image to enlarge

OSPREY PROTECTOR: Rebecca Loveland is running a campaign to prevent the removal of osprey nests from utility poles as part of Central Maine Power’s upgrade of lines through Kennebec County. The Litchfield resident said many of the fish hawks are feeding babies in nests in the poles.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

She has mounted a one-woman campaign to try to spare the nests slated for removal or at least provide alternatives for the big birds' homes.

So far, the Litchfield woman has been unsuccessful, even though she has a "Save Our Ospreys" sign at the base of Overlook Road at Whippoorwill Road.

The poles supporting the nests will be removed in Central Maine Power Company's $1.55 billion modernization effort known as the Maine Power Reliability Project.

"It's been kind of frustrating," Loveland said. "The people in the community can't believe they're allowed to take down the nests. It seems like there should be an alternative, and they should be willing to take a little of the $1.5 billion and build new boxes or save some nests."

On Sunday afternoon, young ospreys waited in gray-stick nests that appear to be four feet in diameter.

The nests perch atop the higher transmission lines in the Litchfield-Monmouth-West Gardiner area, particularly the ones near lakes and streams where the occupants can conveniently secure live fish for dinner. Ospreys are also known as fish hawks or sea hawks.

As part of the utility construction project, several sections of the existing power line will be decommissioned -- including one passing through the southwest corner of Kennebec County where a new power line corridor has been cut.

A description of the work in Litchfield appears on the Maine Power Reliability Program website at

"My initial concern was the ospreys I can see myself when I do my walk," Loveland said. In her mile-long walk, she sees seven active nests.

Loveland said she learned at least 60 osprey nests will be destroyed when the old line is decommissioned.

"Everyone in the community that I have talked with is dumbfounded that this disruption is legal or necessary," Loveland said.

John Carroll, spokesman for Central Maine Power, said the utility tries to minimize disturbances during nesting times.

"We deal with osprey nests all the time throughout our system," Carroll said. "They're a constant presence, a constant factor in these lines. We have permission to remove these poles. We definitely have worked really closely in the permitting process to protect a lot of wildlife. Our entire project includes provisions for accommodating all kinds of wildlife along the way."

Carroll said the tall utility poles are not a natural habitat for the raptors. "One of the reasons (wildlife officials) don't object is that this is not a natural habitat we're disturbing. The birds will find another location, maybe more suitable, a tree or a natural snag."

CMP has permits to remove a number of nests.

"We work with the utility company in these situations when a permit is necessary to help them get permits through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," said John Forbes, state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services. "The reason a permit can be issued is because the nest is on a utility structure which can potentially cause damage to power grid."

Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife biologist Charlie Todd said about there are thousands of ospreys in Maine, including about 1,000 nesting pairs, with about 10 percent of those perched atop utility poles.

"Maine's population has always been dominated by tree-nesters," he said.

Todd said creating a new nest is not so difficult or uncommon for osprey.

"Ospreys are pretty versatile and build very precarious nests because they always go to top of a tree, channel market, chimney, power pole," Todd said. "The ospreys are accustomed to rebuilding nests."

Carroll said part of CMP's mitigation efforts includes a donation to the Stanton Bird Club of 241 acres around Mud Pond adjacent to their sanctuary and $25,000 to support the land stewardship.

The home page of the club features a photo of an osprey nest in the Woodbury Bird Sanctuary in Monmouth.

In all, Carroll said the utility is deeding almost 4,800 acres to state and local agencies and $1.5 million to state's state fund for conservation and wetland restoration.

"We're displacing less than 14 acres of wetland," he said.

Betty Adams -- 621-5631


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