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Environmentalists and PSEG pitching in to save the ospreys

The Group for the East End, the conservation advocacy nonprofit, has partnered power company PSEG in an education campaign to investigate the hazards facing nesting birds when they encounter people.

The Group also recently announced some good news for ospreys the winged symbol of the East End, the beautiful sea hawks we see on their tall nesting perches or sweeping over our bays and inlets.

“In 1985 when I helped install Group for the East End’s very first osprey nesting platforms, I really didn’t know if this magnificent bird would ever truly recover,” Group president Bob DeLuca said. “But we knew we had to try. Nearly 40 years later, I’m thrilled to see that our work alongside that of so many others has given our local osprey population a second chance. It’s an ongoing effort, and a worthy one, as we enter the next important stage of the osprey’s sustained recovery.”

The Group reported that its most recent intensive survey of ospreys on the East End was the summer of 2022 and revealed 477 nesting sites monitored with 353 active nesting pairs documented.

Breaking it down by town the Group’s report stated: “In Riverhead, Group staff and volunteers monitored 25 potential nesting sites, 19 of which showed activity, producing 29 fledglings. In Southampton, west of the Shinnecock Canal, 49 sites were monitored, 38 of which were active, producing 49 fledglings. In Southampton, east of the canal, 105 sites were monitored, 74 of which were active, producing 90 fledglings. In East Hampton, 63 sites were monitored, 49 of which were active, producing 84 fledglings. In Southold, 183 sites were monitored, 136 of which were active, producing 193 fledglings. On Shelter Island, 52 sites were monitored, 37 of which were active, producing 60 fledglings. These numbers do not include Shelter Island’s Mashomack Preserve, East Hampton’s Gardiners Island, or Southold’s Robins Island, Plum Island, or Fishers Island.”

An adult osprey returns to the nest on Shelter Island to be with his mate and their fledglings. (Credit: Don Bindler)

Further monitoring data provided by the Group shows that ospreys have returned to nesting in trees. The report notes: “For centuries, breeding pairs found natural nesting sites along beaches, shorelines, and waterways. While it is a great sign that ospreys are nesting in their original habitat again, many still try to make their home atop electrified utility poles. These poles can be an attractive nest location, but potentially fatal for ospreys, thus calling for critical mitigation measures to protect both the species and electrical service.”

Reporter file photo.

That’s where the partnership with the Group and PSEG comes in. Working together, Group personnel will continue to identify potential hazards to the birds and inform the power company. PSEG then installs what it terms “hazard mitigation measures,” on its poles, which are designed to prevent nesting, or discourage the birds who might return to a pole where they have previously nested.

According to Dave Lyons, PSEG Long Island’s interim president and chief operating officer, about 100 of the highest risk poles have “received v-guard installations, which cover electrified lines and equipment, to protect ospreys and their nests. Mitigation measures vary between poles due to a variety of factors and installations are determined on a case-by-case basis.”

Profile Jenny Zahler, ACO
In one of the many duties she is called on to perform, Animal Control Officer Jenny Zahler is shown here with a fledgling osprey that had difficulties with its maiden flight, bringing it to the ground and in danger. Officer Zahler rescued the bird and returned it to its nest. (Credit: Eleanor P. Labrozzi)

Speaking about the partnership of the power company and the environmental organization, Mr. Lyons said, “Good environmental stewardship is part of being strongly involved in the community, and also because protecting these birds from high-voltage equipment improves reliability for the customers we serve. We’re excited to continue our work together.”

Mr. DeLuca concurred. “The focus of our work and that of our conservation partners will move to sustaining and protecting our local osprey population,” he said. “A major priority of this effort will focus on educating members of the public about this magnificent bird and what we can all do to help keep the population numbers up, while avoiding potential conflicts between human activities and nesting ospreys.”