Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Injured peregrine falcon needs surgery

Herbert at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
We have an update on Herbert, the peregrine falcon that was found with a dislocated elbow this spring. 

Herbert’s elbow was back in place for a time, but it has now dislocated again. This time, the elbow will not stay in place without surgery. 

Scott Diehl from the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at the Wisconsin Humane Society states in an email: “We are hoping to perform a surgery that would provide some stability to the joint.” 

Whether Herbert is able to be released back into the wild is in question, but he would have zero chance for release without this surgery.

Diehl said, “If he is ultimately nonreleasable but able to be retained as an educational bird, the surgery will be better for him comfort-wise and health-wise long term.”

We Energies Foundation has approved a funding request from The Humane Society’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to aid in Herbert’s necessary surgery.

Herbert was born at our Valley Power Plant 11 years ago. Herbert was nesting at St. Joseph’s Hospital this year. Since his injury had taken him out of parenting duties, two of his chicks were moved to our Oak Creek Power Plant. They were adopted by the peregrine falcons that occupy that nest. The chicks were named Foster and Wheeler, and banded earlier this month.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Power plant falcons fly the coop

Artemis, Busby and Murdock at Milwaukee County 
Power Plant nest box.
Most of the peregrine falcon chicks born at our power plant nest boxes
this spring have fledged.

There are empty nest boxes in Pleasant Prairie, Oak Creek, Port Washington and Milwaukee at our Valley Power Plant.

But you still have a little time to watch the remaining chicks at two other sites. Our live falcon cam is focused on the Milwaukee County Power Plant in Wauwatosa where Artemis, Busby and Murdock are getting ready to fledge. They’re expected to take flight around July 2.

Chicks remain at our power plant in Marquette, Michigan, as well. Seppie, Wompus and Spencer also are expected to leave their nest box at our Presque Isle Power Plant around July 2. Hourly photos are available from their nest box at the link below.

Live falcon cam

Hourly photos

Friday, June 19, 2015

Keep your party balloons away from power lines

Summer is the time of year to have outdoor parties to celebrate a graduation or Father’s Day with a backyard barbeque. Please consider your special party decorations carefully because your choice could cause serious safety issues.

Mylar balloons tangled in our power lines.
Helium-filled metallic or Mylar balloons have caused more than a dozen power outages affecting more than 16,000 of our customers this year alone. The metallic surface of the balloon acts as a conductor that creates a short circuit in a power line.

“The balloons are basically aluminum foil filled with air,” said Grant Melcher, one of our troubleshooters.

Melcher has had several experiences with Mylar balloons on power lines. He says that most of the time, the balloons are found on power lines in residential areas. That is cause for great concern. Lines could fall across fences, in front of homes or right onto someone’s party.

“One time there was a violent explosion from contact with a balloon. It caused a fire and brought down the wires,” said Melcher. “We could hear the party going on near the scene.” Troubleshooters arrived at the location quickly and secured the safety of the neighborhood and themselves before they began repairs.

Dave Megna, director - system operations, says that the strings and streamers attached to the balloons also can be very dangerous. “If they are touching our equipment, they could be energized, so don’t touch them.”

Here are some safety tips when using metallic balloons:
  • Use caution and keep balloons away from power lines.
  • Make sure the balloons are tied to a weight securely.
  • Never release the balloons in the outdoors.
  • Never attempt to retrieve a balloon that has become entangled in a power line.
Melcher offers his own advice: “When the party is over, pop them and throw them in the trash.”

Celebrate safely!

More safety tips

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Interurban recreational trail has positive relationship with We Energies

Cyclists on the Interurban Trail. 
Courtesy Kurt Gering. 
Because weather is warmer, more cyclists are out enjoying rides. Southeastern Wisconsin has many recreation trails that bike enthusiasts can access for a fun-filled day of riding.

What you may not know is that many of these trails are on our properties, including utility right of ways that were first used as passenger rail lines.

In Ozaukee County, the 30-mile Interurban Trail follows the former Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company’s rapid transit railway that started in Milwaukee and made its way to Sheboygan in the early 1900s.

From 1905 to 1951, the rapid transit system made stops in many rural communities such as Brown Deer, Thiensville, Cedarburg, Grafton, Port Washington, Belgium, Cedar Grove, Oostburg and Sheboygan.
Interurban Trail.
Courtesy Ozaukee Interurban Trail website

According to the Ozaukee Interurban Trail website, the interurban line also was made famous for transporting African-American blues musicians to the main recording studio for Paramount Records recording label. The studio was first in Port Washington, and later moved to Grafton.

Andrew Struck, the director of Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Department says that the collaboration on the Interurban Trail with We Energies has been wonderful.
I-43 Interurban trail bridge.
Courtesy Ozaukee Interurban Trail website

“The Interurban Trail has had a long-standing positive relationship with We Energies,” said Struck.

Our Property Management group works with local municipalities and counties with licensing recreational trails on We Energies right of ways.

“Once we license a trail, a municipality or county funds and constructs it,” said Julie Simmons, our right of way agent. ”We may approve other improvements along the trails such as kiosks, signage, benches and nature guides, as well as bigger-ticket items like bridges.”

Simmons points out the pedestrian/bike bridge that connects the trail on one side of Interstate 43 to the trail on the other side as an example.

“We were very excited to work with Ozaukee County on this project. Ozaukee County had a vision for a connection point and took this very challenging idea from inception to completion,” said Simmons.

We also have worked with the Interurban Trail to improve its safety. A just-completed project in Port Washington allows trail enthusiasts to ride along We Energies’ right of way instead of a busy highway.

Unlike many recreational trails in Wisconsin, the Ozaukee Interurban Trail is free for everyone. The trail is intended for year-round uses, including biking, in-line skating, walking, running and cross-country skiing. So, come out to the trail today!

Ozaukee Interurban Trail

Ozaukee Trailside Birding Guide

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Artemis: Goddess of the hunt and We Energies falcon

Nina Marks meets Artemis, held by Greg Septon
Artemis, Greek goddess of the hunt, is a perfect name for a bird of prey like the peregrine falcon. That name was chosen by 11-year-old Nina Marks, a special guest at a falcon banding at Milwaukee County Power Plant in Wauwatosa. 

Busby, Artemis and Murdock
Artemis has two brothers -- Busby and Murdock. The three were our final falcons to be named and banded this season. Murdock was named by employees at the power plant.

Busby was named by Peregrine Manager Greg Septon, in honor of his close friend, John Busby, who recently passed away. Busby was a wildlife artist whose work included peregrine falcon paintings and drawings.

A total of 16 peregrine falcon chicks were born at six of our power plants this year. In addition, two chicks were transferred from another Milwaukee-area site to our Oak Creek Power Plant after their father was found injured.

We have been involved in peregrine falcon recovery since the early 1990s. More than 200 falcons have been born at our power plants.

Learn more about our peregrine falcon program

Monday, June 15, 2015

Presque Isle Power Plant falcon named after peregrine manager

Seppie, Wompus and Spencer
Seppie, Wompus and Spencer are the latest We Energies power plant falcons to be named and banded. Our peregrine manager, Greg Septon, retrieved the chicks from their nest box atop our Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette, Michigan on Saturday. Power plant employees and their families were invited to watch Septon band the peregrine chicks and suggest names for the birds. Seppie was chosen in honor of Septon, who’s been managing our peregrine falcon recovery program since the early 1990s. Septon monitors our six nesting sites and nearly two dozen others throughout Wisconsin.

Peregrine falcon webcams

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Adopted falcon chicks named and banded at Oak Creek Power Plant

Foster and Wheeler
Two peregrine falcon chicks that were transplanted to our Oak Creek Power Plant from a separate site were named and banded. The chicks were moved to the We Energies nest from St. Joseph’s Hospital after their father, Herbert, was injured and unable to help his mate DJ with the care of his four chicks. In Herbert’s absence, DJ was left alone to do the job of both parents. Peregrine falcons take turns incubating eggs, hunting and feeding the young.

For the best survival of the chicks, Peregrine Falcon Manager Greg Septon transported two of Herbert’s chicks to our Oak Creek Power Plant to be cared for by female Eclipse and male Scott. This spring, Eclipse and Scott incubated four eggs at the site, but they never hatched. Another falcon tried taking over the nest box, and the territorial battle left the eggs unattended too often. Now, Eclipse and Scott have adopted two of Herbert and DJ’s chicks as their own.

Jon Anderson and Brian Hunt, workers at Oak Creek Power Plant, assisted in last week’s banding. They were aware of the chick’s story and were happy to hear the adult falcons took the hatchlings “under their wing.” They thought the adults made excellent foster parents; hence the name Foster was given to one of the female chicks. The workers named Foster’s sister Wheeler. The steam generators at Oak Creek Power Plant were manufactured by a company called Foster Wheeler Corporation and “Wheeler” just seemed like a good fit.

Wheeler and Foster’s brothers at the St. Joseph’s Hospital site recently were banded and received the names of Jack and Harrison.

All chicks are thriving and should be ready to fly out of the nest in a few weeks.

Peregrine falcon webcams

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

WWII veterans watch falcons get wildlife bands

WWII veteran Chuck Franzke and his wife, Bev.
Chuck Franzke of Waukesha used to fly torpedo bombers during WWII. The former Navy pilot can relate to the peregrine falcons that nest at our power plants. Franzke shared memories Wednesday about the difficulty of landing on an air carrier, relating it to the flight of a peregrine falcon swooping 200-miles an hour for prey.

WWII veteran Norman Jagow.
Franzke and fellow veteran Norman Jagow were special guests at our Port Washington power plant. They watched as falcon chicks from the plant’s nest box received their wildlife bands. Peregrine Manager Greg Septon banded four young – two
males and two females.

Jagow now has a bond with one of
the chicks, which was named
Norman in his honor. The other
chicks were named Spikey,LoriAnn and Suzie.

Veterans with the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight organization have a special tie to our Port Washington power plant. Wisconsin’s WWII Pillar of Honor stands outside the plant at Coal Dock Park as a tribute to all Wisconsin veterans.

We Energies is a longtime partner and sponsor of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.

Norman, Spikey, Suzie and LoriAnn.
WWII Pillar of Honor at Coal Dock Park 
in Port Washington.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Wolverine and Headwaters metering employees achieve 50 years with no lost-time injuries

Current and former employees accepted the award.
The last time a metering employee had lost-time injury at the Wolverine or Headwaters service centers, Lyndon B. Johnson was president. The year was 1965.

Fifty years without a lost-time injury in any sector of the utility business is an incredible accomplishment — in fact, it could be the best safety record in the industry. Wolverine Service Center is located in Iron Mountain, Michigan; Headwaters Service Center is located in Land O' Lakes, Wisconsin. These areas experience extreme weather and many other hazards on the roads, such as deer, bear, turkeys and even moose. Employees often have to drive long distances and walk through snow and ice to reach customers and equipment.

Despite these added risks, metering employees at these service centers over the past 50 years have managed to avoid any type of work-related injury that resulted in lost time from work.

Over the years, these employees have not only been committed to working safely but also have gone above and beyond to ensure the safety of others. In 2010, Sue Dallavalle, a meter reader, assisted some hunters when a member of the group accidentally shot one of his companions. Her quick-thinking actions included calling 911 and providing medical care while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive.

In 2013, Jeanette Larison, another meter reader, spotted a barely visible vehicle that had gone off the road in icy weather. She stopped to investigate, climbing through the underbrush to discover a shaken elderly woman inside the truck. Larison waited with the woman, providing her with warm clothing, until police arrived.

And just last winter, Tony Westerberg, meter testing leader, answered a call for help from an elderly man who had fallen down the stairs outside his home. Westerberg immediately called 911 and assisted the 92-year-old until help arrived.

These individuals selflessly stepped in to help customers and community members in distress, and did so with a focus on the safety of everyone involved. In the end, their actions very likely saved lives.

On Monday, June 1, a luncheon celebration was held to honor current and former metering employees of Wolverine and Headwaters service centers in achieving 50 years without a lost-time injury. The event was attended by Joan Shafer, senior vice president – customer services; Kevin Fletcher, senior vice president – customer operations; and directors, managers and other personnel to recognize and thank these employees for their safety-focused service.

“We are unaware of any other group in our high-hazard industry that has achieved such a milestone,” said Shafer. “It’s a real tribute to our employees and their emphasis on safety, in the workplace and in the communities they serve.”

“These dedicated meter readers, servicers and testers have demonstrated personal responsibility and embraced the company’s number-one priority of safety — all while delivering the best customer care anywhere,” added Fletcher.

Monday, June 1, 2015

What do noble gases from periodic table have in common with peregrine falcons?

At a falcon banding at We Energies Valley Power Plant, a very clever fifth-grade class from Carollton Elementary School in Oak Creek named four peregrine falcon chicks after the gases from the far right column of the periodic table.

Krypton, Argon, Radon and Xenon
Three sisters gained the honor of being named Argon, Radon and Xenon, while their little brother and only boy, Krypton, was the last to be named. Although he was the last, his name was chosen first by the students, after the fictional home planet of Superman. This isn’t the first time the students named a hatchling using Superman terminology. They named a duckling, that hatched in their classroom, Steel, after the man of steel.

Carollton Elementary fifth graders
The students learned that here on Earth, Krypton is a noble gas from the periodic table. They studied the table and found the other suitable names for the chicks. The children were instructed to choose gender neutral names since the sex of the falcons isn’t determined until banding.

The chicks’ parents are Hercules, born in 2011 at St. Joe’s Hospital in Milwaukee, and an unbanded female whose origins are unknown. Hercules is the son of another Valley Power Plant falcon, Herbert, who was found injured earlier this spring and is being treated at the Wisconsin Humane Society’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Herbert was born at the Valley Power Plant 11 years ago.