A program to build osprey nest platforms on Neely Henry and Lay lakes continues to soar.

Since fall 2016, seven platforms — four at Neely Henry and three at Lay — have been built atop channel and hazard markers in the water.

“There’s an active osprey nest on all seven platforms,” said Alabama Power Environmental Affairs Specialist Jeff Baker.

Ospreys, also called a fish hawk, typically build near water and often over water, where they eat live fish almost exclusively. Their nests are built high off the ground and become dome-like as the birds add materials each year. Nesting season runs from March to September in Alabama. The osprey is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

“Conserving fish and wildlife and their habitat is a key component of how Alabama Power manages its reservoirs,” said Jason Carlee, an Environmental Affairs supervisor who oversees Alabama Power’s stewardship programs. “The nesting program is a great opportunity to work with partners across the state on this mission to conserve our state’s important natural resources.”

Alabama Power employees worked with Alabama Marine Police and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on the project. As dozens of markers were updated on the two lakes, the nesting platforms were added.

“We strategically picked out where there had been osprey usage in the past, and we thought we could enhance that with these platforms,” Baker said. “We might be able to get more ospreys in those areas. This species is not very territorial and will sometimes build nests near one another.”

Environmental Affairs biologists and fabricators at Building 4 of the General Services Complex modified a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service design for the platforms. Instead of using wood, the modified platforms incorporate aluminum and other metal.

“It’s durable and weatherable. This material will not rot and should be around for a while. That’s why we went with this design,” Baker said.

The square platform resembles a tray and measures 40 inches wide and 3 inches deep. The ospreys construct their nests between the platform sides.

A pair of ospreys generally mate for life. They build a nest and establish a territory in their first year together.

“The birds come back year after year. In some instances, multiple generations of birds will use the same nest. They continue to build on the nest, and they can become pretty impressive in size,” Baker said.

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