Jack Kifer, a West Penn Power operations services manager, immediately spotted the problem: a jumble of sticks big enough to fuel a bonfire piled atop a 90-foot light pole at the St. Marys Area High School stadium in St. Marys, Pennsylvania.
Kifer, who coaches for the Ridway Elkers high school football team in the next town over, made his observation last fall while assisting with a scrimmage practice in preparation for a state all-star game.
"I had a conversation with the school's athletic director and told him I might be able to help with relocating the nest," Kifer recalled.
West Penn Power and its sister FirstEnergy utilities have plenty of experience working with state wildlife officials to relocate nests to provide safe, new homes for ospreys and other raptors. Birds of prey prefer tall structures - including electric transmission towers and poles - to build nests that can measure up to three feet in width. These nesting habits often place the birds near energized electrical equipment, jeopardizing their well-being and potentially causing power outages.
Mark Romain, facilities manager for the St. Marys Area School District, eagerly accepted West Penn Power's offer to help relocate the nest. He had previously removed the nest from a catwalk on the same light pole under the guidance of the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources, but the persistent pair of ospreys re-established their nest in the exact same spot.
"They're very aggressive," Romain said of the ospreys. "There's a lot of squawking. They fly low and look like they are coming right at you."
The raucous birds also pelt the football field and stadium parking lot with half-eaten fish plucked from the St. Marys Reservoir a mile down the road. Their droppings make a mess, too.
A New Home Sweet Home
Kifer and Romain devised a plan. While the ospreys wintered down south, Romain's maintenance team cleared the nest from the light pole for the second time and carefully salvaged the sticks. The team also constructed a nesting platform to the specifications provided by Kifer.
In mid-January 2022, local West Penn Power line workers set a new 55-foot utility pole about 300 yards away from the school on a hillside. Utility crews fastened the platform to the top of the new pole and filled it with sticks from the old nest for the ospreys to fashion a new nest.
The hope is the ospreys will find their new address suitable when they return this spring. Just in case, Romain will explore options to place deterrents on the light pole to make the old stadium address less desirable.
The final piece of the project is the installation of a camera to provide live streaming images from the new nest platform. Members of the high school's ecology club and students in science classes will be able to click a link and witness first-hand a day in the life of an osprey family.
FirstEnergy and its electric companies have made great strides enhancing avian protection efforts, including the implementation of drones to complete bird nest inspections and deployment of a mobile app that allows utility personnel to report avian issues in real time, streamlining the process to protect nesting birds and enhance electric service reliability. These ongoing efforts continue to help reduce power outages caused by nesting birds.
West Penn Power serves approximately 725,000 customers in 24 counties within central and southwestern Pennsylvania. Follow West Penn Power on Twitter @W_Penn_Power and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WestPennPower.
CONTACT: Media, Todd Meyers, (724) 838-6650; Investors, Irene Prezelj, (330) 384-3859
FirstEnergy Corporation published this content on 29 January 2022 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 28 January 2022 21:46:50 UTC.