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The end is near for the grand old osprey nest perched high above a busy southwest metro freeway interchange.
The nest, atop a 130-foot light pole at Hwy. 169 and Crosstown Hwy. 62, has been home to the distinctive black-and-white raptors for the past five years. When workers began replacing nearby poles last spring, the sight fueled many concerned calls to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the nest got a reprieve. About 100,000 motorists traverse the area daily.
The nest's pair of adult ospreys, which had just migrated back from South America, had eggs to hatch and young to raise. Laws prevent destroying active nests, so MnDOT held off removing the pole until the adults and this year's three offspring were gone.
The birds emptied the nest last month and headed back to South America, said Julia Ponder of the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center.
MnDOT hasn't set a date for removing the fowl pole, but it's expected to happen this fall, said spokesman Kent Barnard.
It will mean the end of a nest, which measures 4 feet across and 2 feet deep, that dates to 2006, said Larry Gillette, wildlife manager for Three Rivers Park District. Since initiating an osprey restoration program in 1984, the district now counts about 60 osprey nests in the metro area.
Birds first tried to build a nest on the light pole in 2005, but the construction process -- dropping sticks onto the platform -- didn't take until a year later, he said. Once it took, its size made it easily visible.
The nest has attracted the same pair of birds -- he was raised in Arden Hills, in a nest at the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant; she's from Iowa -- since 2007. They have raised 13 offspring. "It's been a very productive nest,'' Gillette said.
The nest fits the osprey pattern of seeking out a flat platform on a tall fixture, relatively close to lakes for the fish-eating birds, Ponder said. The nested pole is considerably taller than its neighbors, and unlike most curved light poles nearby, it has a flat top above hanging light fixtures.
What happens next spring when the birds come back? For starters, this year's hatch won't return for a year or two, Gillette said. The adults will come back when the ice is out, although not together, and head to the same area. It's possible they'll take up residence together in a new nest, built by the first bird back, in the same area of Edina or Eden Prairie. Or they may split up and find new mates.
Paul Klauda • 612-673-7280øKEYWORD FROM B1