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NYSEG, Audubon collaborate to build osprey platform

PORT KENT In a win-win situation for both people and wildlife, the Northern New York chapter of the Audubon Society enlisted the help of NYSEG crewmen to install a nesting platform at Wickham Marsh Oct. 27. NYSEG Forester Tom Irwin worked closely with John Thaxton of the Audubon Society and John OConnor of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to select an appropriate location for the nesting platform. The group chose the Port Kent location because it is an optimal habitat for osprey, a fish-eating bird with a wing span that can exceed six feet. These birds will sometimes build their nests on utility poles in remote areas, and the result can be birds being electrocuted and causing power outages, said Mark Leta, NYSEGs manager of regional operations in Plattsburgh. To protect the birds and maintain reliable service, we work cooperatively with the Audubon Society and DEC to provide suitable nesting sites away from power lines. According to Thaxton, the nesting platform represents the culmination of a series of Audubon projects that have been in the works for the past four years. The first phase included a viewing platform next to the marsh along Giddings Road in Port Kent. It was completed in October 2006 and will allow observation of the nest from a high angle using a telescope. Youll be able to see into the nest from above, explained Thaxton, noting that the site will be an excellent place for people, especially school groups, to view wildlife. Thaxton credited Hazelton Lumber for donating the materials to build the viewing platform. A mini-grant from Audubon New York led to the addition of an educational kiosk to the site, which has been added to the Lake Champlain birding trail. Thanks to the Lake Placid Municipal Power Companys , the Audubon Society was able to obtain donated materials for the nesting platform as well, but needed the equipment to install the pole. That is when representatives from NYSEG agreed to offer their services, but crews needed to wait for drier conditions to work with heavy equipment in the marsh. Osprey, like a lot of birds, have high fidelity to the nest, said Thaxton. Adding this new platform, he said, will help encourage the abundance of the predatory birds, which were once heavily diminished by the effects of DDT pesticides. The artificial poles provide a place where predators like raccoons and squirrels cant get to eggs. Placing poles designated for nesting provides a habitat away from human influence. Thaxton said that bald eagles may also make use of the nest. Its just really refreshing to see all these different groups contributing to a project that I think is going to be a great success. said Thaxton.

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