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Ospreys return to Fort Calhoun Station

April 12, 2022 | Terry Zank | environment, Fort Calhoun Station, ospreys
ospreys return fort calhoun station
These two ospreys returned to Fort Calhoun Station recently. Here, one of the birds brings a stick to the pair’s refurbished nest.

Following their southern winter retreat, two ospreys have returned to a refurbished home near the Missouri River at OPPD’s Fort Calhoun Station (FCS).

Ospreys – about the size of bald eagles – have certain legal protections regarding their care, under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Their migratory season runs from September to March.

The raptors previously built a large nest on top of a 360-foot meteorological tower at FCS, which is being decommissioned. While the birds were gone for the winter, OPPD workers took down the tower as part of decommissioning efforts in December 2020, carefully preserving the nest material itself for when the ospreys return.

ospreys return to fort calhoun station
Two ospreys are enjoying a relocated nest – and their own webcam – at Fort Calhoun Station. Photo by Chad Kuchta

Ospreys return

OPPD partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission on a plan to relocate the nest material on a structure near the site of the previous tower. The plan meets state and federal regulations regarding protected species.

OPPD Environmental Operations employees obtained a prefabricated nesting platform, and Transmission & Distribution workers installed a 50-foot power pole to hold the platform.

OPPD located the platform within 300 feet of the original nesting site, as part of the relocation plan. Workers secured the nest on top of the platform.

Since their return, the big birds have added more material to the old nest.

Watch them on their webcam

In addition, OPPD reused the underground distribution line for the meteorological tower to provide power for an osprey nest webcam. Employees installed the camera this year before the falcons returned for the spring and summer. You can watch the FCS ospreys on their livestream. With that addition, the ospreys have joined the peregrine falcon family at OPPD’s North Omaha Station as prime-time stars.

“I am excited we were able to maintain a nesting habitat for the osprey, which are uncommon in this area,” OPPD’s Chris Vrtiska said. Vrtiska is a wildlife natural resource specialist in Environmental Operations.

“The addition of the camera – with help from our partner, Nebraska Game & Parks – will enable our customers to view the nesting and development of the osprey throughout the spring and summer.”

Osprey camera box
Rock Kunneman, left, and Jeremy Boswell, with the osprey camera box, installed the new osprey webcam at Fort Calhoun Station. Photo by Chad Kuchta

Raptor recovery

“Ospreys have slowly expanded as a breeding species along the North Platte River in western Nebraska for about the last 15 years,” said Joel Jorgensen, nongame bird program manager for the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission. “The OPPD site is the only nesting site in eastern Nebraska.

“Ospreys are part of the native avifauna. Their recovery represents a conservation success story similar to the bald eagle and peregrine falcon.”

Loss of habitat and widespread use of DDT negatively affected all three species, he said. “Artificial nesting structures have been a positive development.”

This collaborative effort to maintain a home for these rare birds dovetails nicely with OPPD’s mission of providing affordable, reliable and environmentally sensitive energy services to its customers.

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About Terry Zank

Terry Zank is a contributor to The Wire and senior digital channel specialist at OPPD, where he has worked for 30 years. He and his wife have three sons. Terry enjoys bike riding, playing racquetball, hiking, watching college football, watching great movies from years’ past, and citing quotes from those movies, much to his family’s chagrin.

View all posts by Terry Zank >

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