By Michael Sullivan and Bob DeLuca
Each year on April 22, the world celebrates Earth Day. It’s a time to recognize the urgent need to protect our environment. If you watch PSEG Long Island’s osprey cams, you know that April is also a time to celebrate a local environmental success story: The birds are returning to Long Island from their winter habitat and will soon begin raising the next generation of osprey.
Not too long ago, catching sight of an osprey on Long Island was a rare occasion. Heavy use of pesticides like DDT introduced harmful chemical compounds into our coastal ecosystems, which worked their way up the food chain. Eventually, the impacts of these chemicals were magnified in top predators like the osprey, causing thinning eggshells, widespread nest failures and a population collapse that might never have recovered if human habits remained unchanged.
However, the intervening decades have shown what environmental stewardship can do. According to a report issued by Group for the East End late last year, osprey breeding activity on the East End has grown by 200% in the past seven years, with 199 active nests in 2014 growing to 460 in the summer of 2021.
To help ensure they continue to thrive, it’s important for concerned residents and companies to work together. By partnering in our efforts to protect the osprey, both PSEG Long Island and the Group for the East End are able to accomplish much more than we could separately.
For PSEG Long Island, good environmental stewardship fulfills two parts of the company’s mission: It’s a way to be strongly involved in the community, while protecting these birds from high-voltage equipment improves reliability for customers.
For several years, PSEG Long Island has maintained an osprey team dedicated to safely and responsibly relocating nests when the raptors decide to build on electrical equipment (osprey like to nest atop the tallest structure near a body of water).
In the past, along with its standard line surveys, PSEG Long Island relied on bird-loving customers to reach out when they saw osprey nesting on poles or other equipment. While the team responded quickly, and has been able to move dozens of nests, it was always a challenging proposition. If the birds have laid eggs in the nest, it is considered active and cannot be interfered with by state law until any offspring take flight and leave the nest for the season.
Group for the East End, meanwhile, has advocated for the protection and preservation of nature on the East End of Long Island since 1972. Dozens of volunteers are dedicated to tracking the habits of mating pairs of osprey on the East End. That, of course, includes tracking where they nest.
The partnership we have formed allows us to share data with each other, maintain a detailed spreadsheet of our poles on the East End and prioritize which nests to address. Having this wealth of new osprey data also means PSEG Long Island can be more strategic about relocating nests — taking care of more potential problem spots during the offseason when the osprey are wintering elsewhere.
The benefits for PSEG Long Island and its customers are fewer outages. Osprey build large nests that can short circuit electrical equipment and start fires that can kill young birds. The raptors’ wingspan is large enough that it can also complete a circuit between two power lines if it contacts them, which electrocutes the bird.
The benefits for the Group for the East End — and all of us on Long Island — are clear: more majestic birds to admire as they catch fish and maintain the natural balance of things in our beautiful corner of the world.
This Earth Day, we encourage you to go out and forge your own partnership. Find a local conservation group you can volunteer with. Get some friends and clean up some litter near the beaches and lakes where osprey like to hunt. Or simply make a donation to your favorite wildlife nonprofit. The more we do now, the more we’ll have to celebrate next year.
Michael Sullivan is PSEG Long Island’s vice president of Transmission and Distribution
Bob DeLuca has served as president and CEO of Group for the East End since 1992