LPEA Protecting our Feathered Friends
LPEA Protecting our feathered friends
See this article in the September Colorado Country Life
Raptors, those birds of prey such as eagles and hawks, hunt from above. They often can be spied at the tops of Ponderosa pines, surveying in search of supper.
In the absence of such natural perches, however, these raptors find manmade structures – such as LPEA’s utility poles – highly attractive. The cross arms also appear as secure nest locations. Unfortunately, what they may perceive to be a great perch to help sustain or birth new life, can also mean immediate death by electrocution.
In late summer 2011 LPEA erected a non-functioning utility pole by Echo Lake off of Highway 84 in Archuleta County to relocate an osprey family. This summer, LPEA crews erected a second “bird condo” (a sturdy platform that mimics a utility pole) just south of Pagosa Springs High School adjacent to CR 119, to “convince” the raptors to avoid LPEA’s distribution lines in the area.
“The osprey started building their nest soon after construction,” says Jerry Wills, Pagosa line superintendent. “It may take them some time to move in formally, but our effort at Echo Lake has been effective, so we’re hopeful that this second structure will protect more of our raptors.”
Federal laws protect the birds, nests, eggs and parts (such as a raptor’s talon). LPEA has in place a formal Avian Protection Plan that addresses issues and strategies, the laws, suggested regulatory compliance procedures and training programs.
“An avian protection plan has several primary components,” says Jake Wills, systems engineer. “We are sometimes necessarily reactive, responding to incidents and problem nests on existing poles, because we cannot move the nests until the chicks hatch. But with any new construction, we put avian protection automatically in place, and we are steadily retrofitting our system with the latest in avian protection.”
On a three-phase pole the raptors (that can have a wing span of more than 54 inches) risk hitting two different phases of electric current. They become a conductor between the phases, and the electric current zips through the bird. Death comes quickly. In addition, all LPEA customers on that three-phase line will be out of power. LPEA thus follows the plan and uses 60-inch spacing between phases and phase-to-ground lines to accommodate large female eagles.
“Many of our protection measures aren’t necessarily visible from the ground, but you might see what look like triangles on top of cross arms,” says Jake Wills. “Those are an example of how we keep the birds away from the electrified lines.”
Because nests can be quickly built, and LPEA crews can’t keep an eye on all the poles every day, LPEA members can assist in avian protection to minimize mortality and injury.
“If a raptor is showing interest in a utility pole in your neighborhood or on your route to work every day, please give us a call,” says Curt Marlatt, line superintendent, lines and services. “We’ll get right on it to help protect our regal raptors.”
This is a previous article on the Echo Lake bird nest.
We have been watching our osprey family setting up a nest on the LPEA perch at Echo Lake. Here is a video of these expert fishers on the job.
LPEA Does a good thing! Builds a nesting perch for Highway 84′s favorite bird.
On June 11th we ran this photo of a bird nesting on a power post just south of Echo Lake. This turned out to be an unauthorized construction and had to be taken down as a new series of posts were installed along HWY 84.
Hats off to LPEA for a responsible job.
Indiana Reed was here from Durango producing an article for LPEA’s Colorado Country Living magazine.