One of the ospreys whose nest was removed from atop a utility pole yesterday, after PSEG-LI received reports that wires were arcing at the site, surveys the area this afternoon. Photo: Peter Blasl

After community outcry over the removal of an osprey nest from a utility pole in Riverside yesterday, PSEG-Long Island says it will erect a pole where a nesting pair of ospreys can make a new home.

PSEG contractors removed an existing nest from atop a pole on Flanders Road yesterday morning. When local resident Terry Flanagan saw what they’d done — and saw the ospreys circling the nest “screaming” — he contacted the utility company, the state DEC and town police. He also launched a Facebook page, Homeless Ospreys.

The nesting birds immediately looked to rebuild the nest atop the same pole.

PSEG said wires at that location were arcing this weekend. The utility determined that the nest created a dangerous situation for risk of fire and should be removed.

There were no eggs or flightless young in the nest yet, so it was imperative to act quickly in order to prevent the birds from laying eggs there, a spokesperson for PSEG said. So PSEG contractors hastened to remove the nest. The action was first reported yesterday by 27east.com.

The utility is consulting with an osprey expert to determine the best location for the replacement pole, to ensure that the birds adopt it as their new home.

“PSEG Long Island collaborates with many organizations to help protect the nesting areas of the osprey,” company spokesperson Elizabeth Flagler said this morning.

While the nest was occupied by the pair, it was not considered “active” — meaning there were no eggs or young in the nest.

The state DEC must be contacted before an osprey nest is removed after March 15 so the agency can verify the nest is not active, according to the state environmental protection agency. If a nest is removed after March 15 without proper notification, an individual can face a DEC violation for destroying a nest of a protected bird species and potential federal violations based on the Federal Migratory Treaty Act.

PSEG and other utility companies often modify their infrastructure to benefit and increase potential nesting sites for osprey, according to a DEC spokesperson. At this point in the season, osprey can and often do have the ability to re-nest if a nest is disturbed.

Flagler said PSEG notified the DEC of the dangerous situation and the agency agreed that the nest could be removed. A permit was not needed because there were no eggs or young in the nest.

While the utility is not obligated to erect a replacement pole, it is committed to being a good environmental steward, Flagler said.

Flanagan spoke to the members of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association at the group’s monthly meeting last night.

“They ripped this nest apart. They left garbage everywhere.” he said. “The ospreys are rebuilding. They don’t give a sh– about permits or anything.”

Flanagan is planning a protest at the site on Saturday morning at 10:30. “If the pole isn’t up by close of business Friday, PSEG will have at least 100 people protesting there Saturday,” he said.

“The two birds are flying around the pole right now with twigs in their mouths,” Flanagan said. “They want a new home.”

Ospreys are a beloved symbol of spring on the East End. The migratory raptors usually return to the area in mid-March. The male osprey come first, generally returning to the same nesting location. He prepares the nest for the arrival of a female mate.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, an osprey is a bird of prey usually measuring about 22 to 25 inches, with a wingspan of four to six feet.

Osprey, which eat live fish, usually have three eggs in their nest each spring.

The East End has traditionally been a primary place for osprey breeding; the other is in the Adirondack Mountains, according to the DEC.

Osprey saw a steep decline after DDT, an insecticide, appeared, with a population decline from approximately 1,000 nests in the 1940s between New York and Boston, to around 150 nests in 1969, according to the DEC.

After the ban of DDT in 1971, the osprey population began “rebounding” on the East End. There are currently more than 200 nesting osprey pairs on the East End, according to the Group for the East End.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.