Ospreys will have new, safer places to nest near Watts Bar Nuclear Plant (WBN) this spring, thanks to an ongoing project to move them away from nesting on TVA structures.
Because ospreys are large and have a wide wingspan, their fully spread wings are capable of touching closely spaced energized equipment or connecting an energized wire and a ground wire. To help protect both the birds and TVA equipment, TVA Environmental Scientist Jerri Dolan teamed with Natural Resource Specialist RJ Moore to develop the WBN Osprey Mitigation Strategy.
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The team created alternative osprey nesting platforms away from the transmission lines. The strategy also involves installing deterrents on the transmission poles to provide nesting opportunities away from the active transmission lines and poles.
A number of TVA organizations worked together recently to relocate four empty nests and to install 14 nesting platforms near the plant holding ponds to give the birds a safer place to roost.
“While this may sound easy, it took tremendous coordination and teamwork for all of the details to be worked out,” said Dolan. “These details included obtaining plant management approval, obtaining funding, constructing lightweight, durable Osprey platforms built to TVAs specifications, constructing plywood nest movers and placing them in carefully-chosen locations, then turning off the power and moving the nests.”
To move the nests, two bucket trucks, a digger derrick truck and great skill were required as these nests were intertwined with the electric lines.
“The nests ranged in size from small, approximately six inches by two feet diameter and about 10 pounds, to the one we nicknamed the ‘Taj Mahal’,” said Dolan. “I’d guess it was four feet square and must have weighed about 200 pounds.”
In the coming months, Watts Bar Nuclear Plant will remove several more nests and relocate them to the new platforms. To discourage future osprey nest building, deterrents will then be installed.
TVA has performed similar projects in Guntersville, Alabama in 2019 and at Sequoyah Nuclear Plant in October, 2020.
In addition to the Osprey Mitigation Strategy, Watts Bar Nuclear Plant Manager Beth Jenkins has agreed for TVA’s Natural Resource group and Mississippi State University (MSU) to use this location as a research site. MSU is currently conducting research toward avian uses and behavior associated with electric power infrastructure. When birds return in the spring, WBN will serve as one of the research sites for the capture, banding and satellite tagging of osprey.
The data collected by this TVA/MSU regional study will provide an array of valuable information for infrastructure usage and protection, proactive measures, nest fidelity, population and travel/dispersal patterns.
This information will also provide valuable information for TVA’s Avian Protection Plan.