Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Crew assists osprey banding in Fox Valley

Line mechanics use a bucket truck to access 
the nest.
We have a strong, deep-rooted belief that we have a responsibility to our environment, especially to threatened and endangered birds in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Our most famous birds, the peregrine falcons, can be viewed on live webcams from the first egg laid to when they first take flight. However, we also assist the lesser-known ospreys in growing their populations in our service territory.

Ospreys are large raptors that are listed as a “special concern” in Wisconsin. Osprey populations in Wisconsin declined from the 1950s to early 1970s after a loss of natural nesting habitats of trees along lakeshores. Special concern means that although the animal may not be endangered or threatened, a unique or highly specific habitat may be needed to help it survive.

Ospreys build nests in high structures such as tall trees near water, but a decline of such trees is making another location attractive for the birds – transmission power line towers. The problem is that sticks can fall from the 200-pound nests, causing service interruptions, and the birds could be electrocuted. Over the years, we have been constructing nest structures near our poles and transferring nests to the much higher and safer structures. In Wisconsin, more that 80 percent of the osprey population nests on artificial structures and platforms, most of which are built by utility companies.

Recently, we participated in a banding to identify and track some osprey chicks in Weyauwega and New London. Line mechanics Justin Stanke and Mark Rathje used a bucket truck to access the nests. In New London, we found three chicks in Memorial Park. Stanke and Rathje carefully retrieved them from the nest and carried them to the ground to be weighed and banded. Banding helps keep track of their wintering locations as well as their longevity. Most ospreys winter in Central and South America

“These bandings just make my year,” said Patricia Fisher, owner of the Feather Wildlife Rehab/Education Center in New London, who coordinates the bandings.

Doc Musekamp holds an osprey during banding.
Local volunteers with Fisher’s organization obtain federal bird banding permits to conduct the bandings. This year, Fisher obtained color bands that are easier to identify when birds are in the air. The bands have special meaning to Fisher as they were purchased in the memory of her granddaughter who passed away in a car accident a few years ago.

Those watching the banding were excited and mesmerized by the chicks. Doc Musekamp from our Appleton office was able to hold a bird during the process.

“It was an overall amazing experience to just feel them in your hands. This really is a neat collaboration that We Energies supports,” said Musekamp.

More about our biodiversity initiative

Feather Wildlife Rehab/Education Center

Appleton Post Crescent story

WLUK Fox11 video

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