Stories & Features

Geese move in on a prime osprey nesting spot

Goose in an osprey nest
A goose squats in an osprey nest built on a nesting platform. (Photo courtesy of Terry Venables, Natural Images Canada.)

BC Hydro-built nesting platform's popularity leads to drama in North Saanich

A North Saanich farm is no stranger to ospreys, but this spring, winged squatters moved in to create a little drama. Fortunately for the osprey, BC Hydro was there to help.

Year after year, a pair of osprey have returned to the area to nest. And while traditionally the protected species build their nests at the top of tall, dead trees, this pair got in the habit of attempting to build their home on one of BC Hydro's power poles.

To deter the birds, our crews installed nesting platforms nearby, and the ospreys have used it each year to raise their chicks. Then along came the geese.

When the raptors returned home this spring, they were disappointed to find Canada geese had swooped in and seized their nests and platforms.

Two bucket trucks work to relocate an osprey nest built on a BC Hydro power pole
Two bucket trucks work to relocate an osprey nest built on a BC Hydro power pole. (Photo courtesy of Terry Venables, Natural Images Canada.)

Rather than fight, ospreys chose a power pole

With nowhere else to turn, the osprey started hauling branches over to start building a new nest on the nearby power pole. But that's a precarious plan, as building nests on top of poles can cause power outages and fires. If dangling branches or material comes into contact with energized lines, it can create a safety hazard for the birds, BC Hydro customers and line crews.

Luckily for this pair of birds, the line had been de-energized over the winter. That gave them a place to nest until the farm's spring irrigation needs required re-energization of the line. That's when one of our technicians discovered the nest.  

BC Hydro crew removing the old osprey nest
BC Hydro crew removing the old osprey nest. (Photo courtesy of Terry Venables, Natural Images Canada.)

Expertise from the Interior helps with nest relocation plan

BC Hydro crews hatched a plan to relocate the nest, leaning on experience and advice of colleagues from the Interior who had much more experience with this sort of thing.

Osprey nesting on power poles is less common in the coastal areas like North Saanich. It usually only happens about once every couple of years, because the birds are able to find taller, more attractive trees to call home.

The crew, consisting of a line foreman, two power line technicians, two apprentices and a natural resource specialist, were prepared for every scenario. Tactics changed on the fly, and in the end it was decided to move the nest from the pole to where the Canada geese had since vacated a nesting platform.

To start, the crew pushed grounding rods underneath the nest and piggy-back clamps created a cradle to provide the support needed to keep the nest in one piece during the life and move down to the ground.

Terry Venables was among the local birders who watched the operation from afar, and he documented the whole event on his blog, Natural Images Canada.

The osprey nest is brought down in one piece by BC Hydro crews.
The osprey nest is brought down in one piece by BC Hydro crews

When it’s nesting season, it’s a good idea to bring a thermometer

BC Hydro natural resource specialist Ian Dodd arrived on site prepared for the possibility of dealing with osprey eggs. So he brought along a thermometer to ensure any potential eggs were kept at the optimal temperature during the nest relocation, which can take several hours for larger nests.

As it turned out, there were no eggs in the osprey nest.

The big surprise is that crews found three eggs in the nest on the platform that had been taken over by the Canada goose. After texting the photo of the eggs back down to the ground, Dodd and the crew were able to determine they were in fact goose eggs, and not new osprey eggs.

The birders, who had vigilantly been observing for the last few days, stepped in to help as well. They told crews that that the mother goose hadn't been in the area for several days, and that without consistent incubation, they confirmed the eggs would be dead.

Crews removed the old nest and the dead eggs from the nesting platform, taking care to remove any evidence of the goose so the osprey would return to the platform. The final step was placement of the new nest from the power pole onto the newly vacated platform.  

The female osprey checks out the newly relocated nest
The female osprey investigates the newly relocated nest. (Photo courtesy of Terry Venables, Natural Images Canada.)

Fish for dinner: osprey family adjusting to the move

Bird enthusiast Venables was the one to deliver the good news later that evening. He watched the pair of osprey return to the relocated nest. And right away, the female bird started rearranging twigs and branches, nesting for what Venables predicts will be a freshly laid egg.

Because our power pole is still an attractive nesting place, crews and local birders continue to keep a close eye on the osprey activity. The mother's mating partner wasn't initially as sure about the move, and started to drop a few branches back in the original spot.

Crews have already come up with a contingency plan to transfer the power lines to a new vertically constructed structure, which eliminates the wooden cross arms the birds like to nest on.

It doesn't appear the birds will return to the power pole. In the latest update from Venables, the mother osprey has taken comfort in the relocated nest, and her male partner, the sole food provider while mom is nesting, flew back to their new home with a large herring for dinner. 

Male osprey delivers fresh herring to his nesting partner
Male osprey delivers fresh herring to his nesting partner. (Photo courtesy of Terry Venables, Natural Images Canada.)