Local outdoorsman builds better homes for birds

Mike, one of the first osprey platforms that Dave Stenson built, stands empty until a pair of ospreys comes around April or May to use it as a nest.

GUERNSEY – The osprey that live around Guernsey have trouble finding good locations for nests. Now, thanks to Dave Stenson, they have new places to call home.

“I have so many hobbies I can’t keep up with them,” said Stenson. “I have hunting and fishing and I like watching wildlife. I like building things, so the osprey platforms came in naturally.”

Stenson used to work for the power plant in Wheatland until he retired in 2013. He built the first platform on a hunch.

“It was just on a whim that I thought, ‘You know I’m going to try this, see if the birds will use it,’” said Stenson.

“And so I watched those birds for the past eight years use the same platform and I thought, ‘You know I kind of like this program so I’m going to build some more, see if we can’t keep the birds off the power lines and keep them from getting electrocuted and help out the power companies too by not getting their poles burned up.’”

As birds of prey, osprey require large spaces to build nests. According to Stenson, their past nesting sites have been places like telephone and power poles.

The danger occurs when osprey stretch their wings and potentially create a circuit between two lines which electrocutes them and damages the lines.

“The ospries like to build on the cross arms of the power poles and they get around the transformers and then they touch wingtip to wingtip on the lines and ignite a big fire,” said Stenson.

Special platforms move the birds away from these dangerous locations and lessen the risk to humans and themselves.

“It just bothered me to watch the birds either their nests being torn down off the power line poles by the power companies or starting a fire and getting electrocuted,” said Stenson.

Stenson built the first platform eight years ago and has put up six so far. He hopes to put up three or four each year if support is available.

“If I can continue to get help with them, then we’ll continue to do that,” said Stenson.

Support is offered from among the town. Both the National Guard and the Town of Guernsey have been helpful in the program.

“The National Guard helped me with the poles,” said Stenson. “They donated the poles.”

“And then the City of Guernsey has helped me a great deal. They’re the ones that drilled the holes and set the poles for me after the platforms were all built.”

Stenson explained that aid has also come from private citizens in the form of donations to help cover the costs of materials, describing the whole project as a community effort which he is grateful for.

Even with the support he has received, has not been an easy process for Stenson to build these platforms. The first problem was the location of the poles.

“It’s been kind of a difficult process because it took time,” said Stenson. “I had to go to city hall meetings and get permission to put up these poles on city property.”

Another difficulty was sourcing raw resources for the platforms and any necessary money for them. Thankfully, people stepped up and helped the project.

“And it took time to get materials lined up, which I pay for all the materials myself as far the nesting platforms and that’s where people came in to help me on the materials.

“And then finding people that would donate power poles, and not everybody’s got power poles sitting in their back yards, so you have to find the people to donate that stuff.”

Stenson would like the project to continue with three or four platforms being added each year.

“As long as I’m capable of building them and as long as I can find people to help me, I’m willing to put them up,” said Stenson.