Farmington Bay blue herons get new nesting platforms

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 12:59 PM

The Associated Press

FARMINGTON -- Great blue herons have a new home at a Farmington nature center after officials replaced their nesting platforms and the tall poles they sit on.

Six new 35-foot poles with wooden platforms were installed at Robert N. Hasenyager Great Salt Lake Nature Center on Thursday.

Officials have been waiting to replace the nesting perches for almost two years, but weather problems and a nest of baby owls postponed the efforts until this week.

The platforms will give the birds a place to build nests and lay eggs in February or March, Diana Vos, the center's director, told KSL-TV.

The old nesting perches were installed in 2007 and made from recycled telephone poles. They had deteriorated in recent years, Vos said, and two of them were knocked down in a 2011 windstorm.

At one point, a nest of baby owls appeared on one perch, so officials again had to postpone replacing the poles.

"I'm glad that they're getting them up," Vos told KSL-TV. "I think the herons actually will be happy too because there are some still hanging around. And even though they're done nesting, they still get up there. They're kind of homesick."

Great blue herons, which are about 4 1/2 feet tall with a 6-foot wingspan, build large nests which can be several feet across and almost a foot thick, Vos said.

They prefer to build nests up high, but if there's nothing around, they'll build nests on the ground, she said.

Local Boy Scouts built the wooden platforms for the new perches, which sit atop new utility poles donated by Rocky Mountain Power, which also donated labor.

The utility wanted to help out, and the platforms can prevent problems with birds interrupting power lines, utility spokesman David Eskelsen said.

"That keeps birds who make big nests, like herons, off of our distribution and transmission structures," Eskelsen told KSL.

The power company has installed similar perches in other wetland areas across Utah and Idaho.

"They're very successful, particularly in this location," Eskelsen said. "The alternative nesting platforms are in a place that is more suited, closer to where they feed, and it's a better place for them to nest."

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