Huntington Beach Ospreys Get a Home Improvement

An SCE crew builds a wooden platform on a power pole so the birds can safely nest.
By Mary Ann Milbourn and Joseph Foulk

Video Credit: Joseph Foulk and Roberto Lazarte

Chris Epting, a Huntington Beach writer and photographer, likes to visit the area around Sunset Aquatic Marina to look at the wetlands and photograph the birds.

But on one recent visit, he noticed that an osprey nest on a Southern California Edison power pole he had been photographing for some time had disappeared. He wondered if SCE had removed the nest for some reason even though the birds had been nesting there for about two years.

Working through a local online community forum, Epting found Kara Donohue, an SCE avian protection specialist, and called to find out what happened.

Donohue said nests can damage power lines because the nests become very large, are often built on top of energized lines and can drop debris into equipment below. When the nest material comes in contact with the lines, it can cause an outage.

She noted, however, that the company has a strong commitment to protecting the environment. SCE has operated an avian-protection program since 1988 to protect endangered, migratory and other birds from electrocution, while also preventing power outages that can be caused by birds.

An osprey perches next to the new platform.
An osprey perches next to the new platform. Photo Credit: Joseph Foulk

“When we learn about a nest that’s an immediate hazard to our system, it is our policy to report it if it’s during nesting season and we’ll come out and make sure it is properly relocated,” Donohue said. “If there are any chicks or eggs inside the nest, we’ll carefully move them and their nest to a safe location.”

In this case, however, SCE had not removed the nest and there was no report of any eggs or chicks being brought into a local shelter. In addition, the power line on the pole where the nest had been was de-energized two years ago to accommodate the ospreys so there was no threat to the electric system.

It appeared the wind had blown the nest down, but Donohue had a solution. She called SCE’s Huntington Beach district, which sent out a crew within five days to build a wooden platform on top of the pole.

“The platform provides a much more stable base for the ospreys — or any bird for that matter — to help construct their nest,” she said. “It has pegs along the perimeter and in the middle to help secure the nest to the platform.”

Epting watched as the crew built the wooden structure, retrieved what was left of the nest and put it on the platform. The ospreys, he noticed, were taking the whole scene in on a perch about 200 feet away.

“The crew was extremely competent and handled it perfectly,” Epting said. “I don’t think it was an hour after this platform was finished that the birds came back and claimed their nest.”

Epting posted the whole saga — with photos — on a community forum and said he was amazed at the outpouring from residents.

“We have our differences in this city, but this was just transformative in bringing people together,” he said.

If you see endangered birds or another environmental problem, call SCE customer service at 800-655-4555.


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