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Defend this nest: Osprey defeat attempts to stop them from setting up home near Havre de Grace

Natural ResourcesElectricity Production and DistributionBaltimore Gas and Electric Co.ConservationEndangered Species

It is hard to miss if you drive past Adams Chevrolet in Havre de Grace.

Two osprey have taken up residence on a utility pole off Route 40, despite attempts to keep the birds from nesting there.

Ron Herrmann, a driver at Adams Chevrolet, said the power company has already been out twice to try and deter the birds from nesting, first by destroying the nest and then by trying to make it harder for the birds to rebuild.

A Baltimore Gas and Electric crew came out last Friday, Herrmann said Thursday, and took down the nest, but as soon as the trucks pulled out, the birds were back.

"The guy left and they immediately started building," he added.

Utility workers were back Monday to erect a barrier to prevent the birds from rebuilding their nest, Herrmann said, but it didn't work.

The birds now use the shelf-like structure as a ledge to land on before hopping down into the rebuilt nest, he said.

The previous nest was "huge," Herrmann said, as the birds had been working on it for approximately six weeks.

Since that nest was destroyed, he said, the rebuilding effort has continued almost nonstop, and the pair is constantly in the field to the left of Adams Chevrolet, collecting sticks.

An Aegis photographer who visited the site Thursday had no difficulty getting a picture of one of the birds transporting a branch to the new nest.

Osprey look quite similar to American bald eagles, which is what many people thought these birds were at first, according to Herrmann.

Both species of raptor are known to return to the same nests over time, even once they have been destroyed, according to Karina Stonesifer, associate director of the wildlife service for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Stonesifer also pointed out that although there may be certain exceptions in the federal law, it is illegal to destroy any raptor's nest, "particularly one that is active."

A naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation, David Mizejewski, said the same thing, adding that regardless of whether it is a bald eagle or an osprey, it is illegal to disturb or harass raptors unless there is a special permit.

"They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act," he said.

Although the osprey was not on the endangered species list like the bald eagle, which was recently removed, Mizejewski said Osprey went through a decline similar to, but not as precipitous as the eagle, and have been able to bounce back.

He added it is "sad" to think how hard individuals and organizations have worked to protect the birds only to see their nests deliberately destroyed.

"They are beautiful animals," Mizejewski said, "and they have just as much right to live and raise their next generation as anyone else."

Mizejewski also pointed out that it will only take a short period of time for the osprey to nest and then they will leave the area. Once in the summer months and the osprey have left, that is a more appropriate time to try any exclusion methods to prevent the osprey from returning.

He suggested a "bit of patience" for this nest because the osprey are so close to laying eggs.

Rachel Lighty, a BGE spokesman, confirmed Thursday that workers with the power company had taken down an "unoccupied nest" in that area and installed something to deter the birds from building another nest. She said they consider the nest to be unoccupied if there are no eggs or young birds currently in the nest.

Having an osprey nest on top of the power lines can potentially hurt the birds themselves, Lighty said, so BGE is working to remove the sticks and branches in a way that minimizes any danger to the osprey. At this point, she added, more than 30 BGE structures have nests on them that workers are monitoring and will relocate when possible.

If there were eggs or young birds in this particular nest, Lighty said, they would install a rubber device on the line to protect the nest, as well as the lines.

"There is a possibility that the lines could burn up that nest," she added.

Last year, BGE employees worked with the state to create an osprey nesting platform in Havre de Grace in order to provide the birds with a safe place to nest that would protect the electric lines as well, according to an Aegis article. The pole was installed at the Havre de Grace Military Reservation off of Old Bay Lane.

In addition to that platform, Lightly also said there is another platform which osprey are currently using within a mile of the Adams Chevrolet.

"It is a place for the birds to build their nests that is safe," she added.

As of Thursday evening, BGE was still determining whether they would build a third nesting platform the area, Lighty said.

Meanwhile, the nest near Adams Chevrolet is very much occupied and has become somewhat of a local attraction, according to Herrmann.

"People have been stopping on the road," he said. "It is just a shame to go ahead and rip that out of there."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Natural ResourcesElectricity Production and DistributionBaltimore Gas and Electric Co.ConservationEndangered Species
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