Ospreys appear to finally flee Wando bridge nest

An osprey lands on top of a crane with a twig in late March, as it attempts to build a new nest about 50 yards from where a former osprey nest was removed from a pole at the S.C. Highway 41 bridge construction site over the Wando River.

WANDO — The ospreys have apparently flown the coop, but not before one last look.

Both South Carolina Electric & Gas and local residents were reporting no osprey around the S.C. Highway 41 pole where utility crews three times tore down a nest that a pair of the raptors was trying to build. Then on Wednesday, neighbor Julie Reagor spotted a lone osprey atop a nearby pole.

The bird stood there awhile then flew off and hadn’t returned after more than an hour, she said. She didn’t see a second bird.

Meanwhile, the utility company didn’t respond to a weeklong effort to get an alternative nesting platform raised across the highway until they informed Jim Elliott of the Awendaw-based Center for Birds of Prey by email that the birds appeared to be gone.

But padding was placed on the lines below the top of the pole, to protect the lines and keep the birds from electrocuting themselves. A company spokeswoman described it as insulating the lines.

“Our goal with this is to not only protect the birds but also protect our nearby customers from losing power due to the nesting material coming into contact with our lines,” said spokeswoman Kim Asbill. She added that the company could not re-erect the platform in its right of way because it’s all being used for the new bridge.

As far as the alternative platform across the road, she said, “After making the most recent modifications, we monitored activity on and around the poles and did not feel the platform was necessary.”

A nesting platform where the plucky osprey pair had started to lay twigs for a nest on the S.C. 41 pole was removed by SCE&G in March as part of clearing to build a new bridge over the Wando River.

For a month, the birds kept trying to rebuild the nest around an orange traffic cone placed on top of a nearby pole to discourage them, as crews weekly removed the built-up materials. The removed platform lay at the foot of the poles. The utility originally erected it so ospreys could nest, which they did for several years.

“The bottom line is they deterred the birds long enough that (the birds) ran out of time and missed the breeding season, or moved somewhere else and were able to nest in time. We’ll likely never know. Maybe in time we can make (providing an alternative nest) more the mode than what we’ve seen in this instance,” Elliott said.

“If the osprey have gone, it’s so sad to see them have to start over again when this all could have been avoided,” Reagor said. “SCE&G has spent more money and resources trying to prevent the birds from nesting than they would have spent by erecting a new platform. “Maybe (the birds) have run out of time this nesting season, but I won’t be surprised if the pole is still standing that they try again next season.”

Ospreys are the huge eagle-like white birds with black markings on their wings. They are not an endangered species but are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Act. They build nests from March into April and lay eggs in April.

They are among the highest “nest fidelity” birds, determined to build in the particular spot they choose.

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