For the birds: Holy Cross relocates Emma osprey nest | AspenTimes.com

For the birds: Holy Cross relocates Emma osprey nest

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

EMMA – If a pair of ospreys return to their nest above the Roaring Fork River at Emma next spring, they’ll find it in a new spot. Hopefully, they won’t mind.

A Holy Cross Energy crew picked up the impressive mass of interwoven sticks Tuesday morning and moved it to another nearby pole where the birds won’t be in danger of electrocution.

The delicate task meant shutting off power to the pole containing the nest, disconnecting lines and detaching a pair of parallel, wooden crossbars that had been affixed to the top of the pole. It was the crossbars that provided an attractive platform for the nest construction, at least in the eyes of the ospreys. The wood pieces and the nest atop them were lifted en masse to the ground, and then reinstalled on a pole roughly 40 feet away, closer to the river.

Relocating the nests of large raptors is something Holy Cross does from time to time, said crew foreman Larry Shaffer. More frequently, live wires are encased in a rubber sheath to protect birds that nest on utility poles, he said.

The Emma pole used to carry three live lines, but two were disabled a couple of years ago, when ospreys first began trying to build a nest there. The remaining “hot” line carries 14,000 volts – enough to “kill you instantly,” Shaffer said.

Other adjustments were made previously to eliminate the risk of a significant power outage, should an osprey try to perch on the live line, according to Shaffer. One wrong move by a bird had the potential for cutting off power to all of El Jebel and half of Basalt, he said.

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Tuesday’s project included cutting and removing the two disabled lines. All traffic on Highway 82 was stopped briefly while the wires were cut from the pole containing the nest and dropped onto the roadway.

The nest, located close to the highway and almost directly above the Rio Grande Trail, was lowered onto the trail with a sling connected to the crossbars it was built upon, then raised and affixed to another pole on the opposite side of the trail. Live wires aren’t an issue in the nest’s new location.

Shaffer guessed the nest weighed about 100 pounds.

“It’s pretty solid – I found some pretty big chunks of wood up there,” said his co-worker in the effort, Cody Lyden, who was stationed in the bucket truck and charged with the actual lifting of the nest.

The ospreys that worked on the nest last spring and summer were probably a new pair, according to wildlife biologist/consultant Jonathan Lowsky of Basalt-based Colorado Wildlife Science. He monitored the birds throughout the summer, but saw no evidence of nestlings.

“I would see them roosting on it, working on it. What they were doing was a very important part of the bonding ritual,” he said. “What I anticipate is next year, these osprey will be back.”

Whether they come back to their old nest or start anew remains to be seen, but Lowsky expects them to return to the same general vicinity.

The Emma birds are the third pair of nesting ospreys along the Roaring Fork in the midvalley. There is also a pair that returns to Rock Bottom Ranch below Basalt each year and a pair that nests in the Cattle Creek area between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. Another pair nested at Ruedi Reservoir last summer, according to Lowsky.

Ospreys, which feed exclusively on fish, are known for spectacular dives to snare their prey. Their presence indicates a healthy river, according to Lowsky.

janet@aspentimes.com