HELENA - A locally famous pair of osprey who lost their nest near Kessler Elementary last year when AT&T removed a cell tower will be greeted by a new nesting platform when they make their expected return next month.
The old nest sat high above U.S. Highway 12 on Helena’s Westside for a decade as the osprey returned each year to raise each year’s crop of chicks. A welcome addition for many area residents, the nest garnered media attention in 2014 when a class of second graders wrote letters to AT&T concerned about baling twine twisted into the nest. Ospreys are notorious for seeking out baling twine in nest construction causing significant danger of entanglement.
In response, AT&T contractors climbed the tower and removed the twine to the excitement of the second graders looking on.
Late last year AT&T ordered the decommissioned tower removed. A company spokeswoman emphasized that AT&T took issues concerning migratory birds very seriously, working closely with state and federal officials to make sure the pair was not harmed.
The nest was preserved with the goal of relocating it before the birds’ typical April return.
Area resident Glen Knudson and his family, including his mother-in-law, live near the nest and set out recently to build the osprey a new home.
“Mom lives only 20 yards from the birds and sees herself as their gatekeeper so to speak,” he said. “I always sat out on my front porch watching them teach their babies how to fly. I love living here, love Helena and love Montana and its wildlife, and I’ve been fond of the pair of osprey. When they went away it was heartbreaking.”
Knduson said Lewis and Clark County issued him a contract for an encroachment agreement, which provided the land for the pole. The Montana Department of Transportation then signed off, saying it did not interfere with their right-of-way, he added, also offering to donate a 40-foot pole.
A call to NorthWestern Energy resulted in an offer for all the manpower needed to erect a pole, as well as an offer for a 90-foot pole, Knduson said.
On Thursday evening, Howard Skjervem’s NorthWestern team of Ralph Rizzo, Lance Beto, Taylor Beto, Chuck Olson and Mike Glueckert donated their time to erect the pole and platform only a few feet from its original location.
If the ospreys take to the nest, Knudson hopes to install a webcam, and he’d also like to put up a sign highlighting the osprey as part of the neighborhood.
Kessler Elementary principal Craig Crawford was not available for comment.
The osprey nest had provided a major educational opportunity for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks nearby Montana Wild education center, said Education Manager Laurie Wolf. School groups often survey the nest as they learned about bird migration and participated in actual scientific data collection, she said.
“We knew almost exactly when those birds show up and it’s really a part of those students’ relevant work that contributes to something,” Wolf said.
Montana Wild was initially planning on building a platform on its property until hearing news of the local residents’ efforts.
“We figured this is a win-win situation,” Wolf said. “It’s so close to where the original nest was located and where the Kessler students can see it. I’m just really impressed by the people in the community.”