Ospreys moving on up in the Valley, thanks to UI's efforts

A popular pastime for many in the spring and summer is watching ospreys flying into their nests with fresh-caught fish to feed their chicks.

It is a scene of natural wonder, but one that can be dangerous for some of the ospreys, which can choose to build their nests high atop electric utility poles with high-voltage wires.

In Ansonia, the birds’ insistence on nesting in one particular location on Riverside Drive posed a dilemma. The nest has been a source of some outages and power interruptions.

So the United Illuminating Co. (UI) and its partners came up with a solution. “We wanted to provide a more attractive nesting location for birds and hopefully make things as safe as possible,” said Shawn Crosbie, an environmental analyst with the local electric company.

UI serves Shelton and 16 other towns in Fairfield and New Haven counties.

New nesting platform

UI constructed a new nesting platform near the site of some existing utility lines, where the ospreys can build their nest in peace, away from the dangerous high-voltage wires.

Besides an internal team from UI, advising the project were representatives from the city of Ansonia as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Dam and Levee Division.

Complete Construction granted permission to UI to install the new nesting platform on the company’s property.

“We are happy to cooperate with UI to ensure that the ospreys have a safe nesting place,” said Guy DeMaio Jr., vice president of Complete Construction.

Higher perch

The new osprey riverfront high-rise stands atop a taller, treated pole about 50 feet from the original nest site. The new pole, which is 55 feet tall, includes a 4-foot-long perch, and the ospreys can deposit their nesting material on a flat, 6-by-6 platform at the very top, free from the danger of electrocution.

The platform in Ansonia was designed following the specification outlined in Office of Long Island Sound’s General Permit for Osprey Platforms.

Similar project done in Milford

Putting up an alternative but taller nesting structure nearby has been a proven way of getting the birds off a pole, as the birds prefer a higher site.

Crosbie noted that this is the second platform that UI has created for osprey. Last year, UI installed a platform in Milford that has yielded two healthy young ospreys. Other sites UI is currently scouting for such platforms are in Fairfield and New Haven.

Ospreys, often known as fish hawks, are exclusively fish-eaters, but can prey on amphibians.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Migratory Bird Act protects the birds’ breeding habits during certain times of the year, which may pose certain challenges to the utilities.

Known to mate for life, the birds nest in pairs and usually return to the same nest site and add new nest materials to the old nest each year.

About UIL Holdings

Based in New Haven, UIL Holdings Corp. serves more than 700,000 electric and natural gas customers in 66 communities in Connecticut and western Massachusetts.

UIL is the parent company of the United Illuminating Co., Southern Connecticut Gas Co., Natural Gas Corp. and Berkshire Gas Co., each more than 100 years old. It employs more than 1,850 people in New England.

UI provides for the transmission and delivery of electricity and other energy related services for Connecticut’s greater New Haven and Bridgeport areas.