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Saying farewell to our osprey friends

September 15 2022, 08:30 AM

Saying farewell to our osprey friends

It’s nearing the end of the summer, which means it’s time for many species of birds to make their flight to sunnier skies, including the osprey. 

In order to ensure safe, reliable energy to our customers while also keeping osprey populations safe, NB Power follows an Avian Protection Plan (APP). The APP is designed to protect migratory birds by reducing the number of interactions birds make with electrical equipment. This is accomplished by identifying high-traffic osprey areas and modifying our structures with safer parts. The APP also directs maintenance crews on how to avoid and, when necessary, handle active bird nests. 

When nests do pose an immediate threat to reliability, biologists at the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development help us take every step to avoid disturbing or destroying a nest while we work to make sure the power stays on. Today, over 300 active nests are found on the electrical system or on platforms installed by NB Power. We continue to work closely with the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development when situations arise where an active nest must be trimmed or relocated to a platform due to safety or reliability concerns. 

This past spring, NB Power installed an osprey cam at Hazen Park in Oromocto which features one of these nesting platforms. We have had the pleasure to watch an osprey nest and hatch two eggs and witness two baby osprey grow and flourish in their nest. You can check out the webcam here to say farewell and stay tuned next spring for their return. They’re very active these days, so you may or may not catch a glimpse!

These are just a few examples of how we’ve been working together with New Brunswickers to help preserve our province’s natural beauty for years to come. Click here to visit the Environment section of our website, where you can learn about how we preserve our environment, reduce emissions and help reduce the effects of climate change through energy efficiency. 

High flying work aims to keep migratory birds safe

December 23 2019, 10:06 AM

High flying work aims to keep migratory birds safe

It’s not every day you find yourself hovering hundreds of feet in the air, strapped to the side of a helicopter.

But for a group of NB Power powerline technicians, this has been part of their job for the past two weeks.

The task? Installing two types of bird diverters on 25 km of transmission lines stretching from Memramcook to Sackville, New Brunswick. The first diverter is yellow and coiled, and the technicians twist it onto 138 kV lines. The second type looks more like a small black and yellow tent, and it gets snapped onto the highest point on the larger 345 kV lines.

When migratory birds, like ospreys are flying near powerlines, these diverters help keep them safe by helping them see the powerlines easier. By installing these at the highest point, we can divert the birds higher up so they fly over these much taller lines.

It’s not an easy job. But the team are highly skilled and hyper focused on the task at hand. They’re harnessed in to keep them safe while attaching the diverters to the lines.

“It takes a bit of getting used to – especially the first five or 10 minutes … but after that you just go about your business,” says transmission powerline technician, Shawn MacKinnon.

The pilot uses a steady hand to keep the helicopter as still as possible for both the pilot and the powerline technician’s safety. The talent and precision of the pilot makes a big difference in how well the work goes, and in this case, the NB Power crew gave two thumbs up for Mike Maurice of Vortex Helicopters who was at the stick.

“One of the biggest surprises was the size of the skid we stand on. It is not much bigger than the sideboard you would find on a pick-up truck,” MacKinnon said. “But you get use to it. We were lucky in that it’s usually very windy on the Tantramar marshes, but not when we were there. And the downdraft from the rotors wasn’t bad at all. It couldn’t have gone much better.”

Want to see what this work looks like from the sky? Check out the video below.

Last week the team wrapped up installing 3,200 of these diverters in addition to inspecting and maintaining 28 transmission towers. Doing this work by air instead of land minimizes the impact to these wetland areas, while allowing the team to work quickly along the lines to install the diverters.

Other line technicians who worked on the project were Hunter Smith, Grant Donnelly and Jason McKellar. Supervisor Pat Daigle was pleased with the work and noted the crews saw bald eagles, golden eagles and osprey when they were on the job.

 

Raising Salmon at the Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility

December 14 2018, 10:00 AM

Raising Salmon at the Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility

When the air outside has cooled, and the rest of us begin to bundle up for the winter months ahead, the team at the Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility begin their prep for the next summer.  Every November, the team begins the months’ long process of spawning and rearing eggs and juvenile Atlantic salmon for release into the wild.

This process starts by catching healthy wild adult Atlantic Salmon juveniles, in waters above the head pond in the Saint John River (Wolastoq.) The fish are brought to the facility and reared to sexually mature adults over a period of 2 to 4 years. The majority of these mature fish are released back into the river to spawn naturally, but a small percentage are retained for captive breeding where eggs are extracted and fertilized on site. After being incubated for the next two months at the main facility, the eggs are moved across the river to the incubation building next to the Mactaquac Generating Station. The eggs are kept in large incubation tanks   where they will grow through the coldest months of the year until they hatch.

It’s this step in their journey, when the team at the Mactaquac Generating Station steps in to help. The incubation building is fed with warm water that comes out of the pump house at the Station. Because the temperatures can be unpredictable at times, the operators keep a close eye on the temperatures and adjust as needed so the temperatures inside the building stay at a safe level for the fish.

“There’s daily communication between our team and the team here at Mactaquac,” says John Whitelaw, a Biologist with the Biodiversity Facility. “This facility allows us to get an early start on hatching and feeding the fish. It’s incredibly important that the water temperatures and oxygen levels stay within a defined range, as it could stunt their growth or completely wipe out the eggs if we lose that.”


 

 

The young fish continue to benefit from this partnership once they’ve fully outgrown the tanks at the incubation building and get transported to the Aquadomes a short walk uphill. These domes are where they’ll spend the next few months growing until they reach their juvenile state and make their way back to the biodiversity facility across the river.

 

They’re transported in large tanks by truck across the dam where they are released into rock pools that mimic natural riverbeds. They’ll stay here until they’re big enough to be released back to the river to start their journey to the marine environment.

“This partnership began when the dam was built to mitigate loss with the operation of the dam,” says Whitelaw. “Since then, there has been a shift in thinking to conservation and preservation of the species. So in 1984, this early rearing facility was built as an add-on to what we were already doing to help us learn new things on how we use our facilities and how we can incorporate new science to help put more salmon back in the river.”

The Mactaquac Biodiversity Facility also collects migrating salmon and gaspereau at a specially designed fish lift at the Mactaquac Hydroelectric Dam and trucks and releases them upriver of the Dam.

Point Lepreau employees give a helping hand to Monarch Butterflies

September 18 2018, 11:03 AM

Point Lepreau employees give a helping hand to Monarch Butterflies

Every summer, Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station welcomes some unique visitors. It’s an ideal stop for Monarch Butterflies as they re-fuel for their 3,500 km journey to Mexico for the winter. The butterflies will feast on the fields of Goldenrod, Aster and Thistle, along with Milkweed planted by Station staff.

These plants are both a home and food source for Monarch butterfly eggs, and then the caterpillars which they become. This summer, these caterpillars ate through most of the planted milkweed at Lepreau, helping them grow quickly into their pupal (chrysalis) stage. But, while observing their progress, Point Lepreau Environmental Specialist, Carolyn Campbell noticed that a number of the caterpillars might struggle to find sufficient foliage and secure place to survive their pupal stage and devised a plan.

“After meeting the naturalist folks last year I took a huge interest in monarchs,” said Carolyn. “When I saw the 50+ caterpillars on the small patch of bare milkweed I knew we had to help. As a result of that so many other people are developing the passion that I now have to learn more and help out. It has been amazing to watch.”

In nature, only 10% to 15% of all these caterpillars survive long enough to reach their chrysalis stage.  The caterpillars typically attach themselves to the underside of a leaf, and then shed their striped caterpillar skin, revealing a turquoise-green coloured camouflage which helps protect them against predators while they gradually change into their adult state inside this new cocoon-like state. To help these caterpillars beat the odds, Carolyn and a group of her peers at the Station worked quickly to build a special incubator for the caterpillars. By setting up this habitat for the caterpillars, Carolyn and team expect the likelihood of survival to be closer to 75% for these caterpillars.

Inside their new habitat, the caterpillars are set up on Milkweed clippings. Grated netting seals the top of the aquarium, providing a place for the larvae to weave a tiny silk pad that they’ll anchor the bottom of their abdomen to. They’ll hang here in this upside down position for 12 to 48 hours before extracting itself from its caterpillar skeleton and enter their pupal stage.

The caterpillars will remain in their cocoons for 8 to 15 days before they emerge as adult butterflies.

At first, the butterflies may be a bit weak. To help them get used to their new wings, Carolyn and team set up a special netting structure to place them to keep them safe while they get comfortable.

When they’re ready to take off, these butterflies will be tagged, with the help of the Jim Wilson of the Saint John Naturalists’ Club at their observatory on the Point, who has spent the last 12 years tagging these endangered butterflies. Once tagged, they will begin their journey to Mexico. Tagging helps provides data that is used to learn more about the migratory cycle and to protect it.

Point Lepreau is so important to the Monarch migration,” says Jim. “It has been a wonderful work with NB Power. We are very appreciative for this great relationship.”

The observatory at Point Lepreau is one of only two tagging stations in New Brunswick.

In 2017, Point Lepreau was designated an official Monarch Watch stop for these butterflies, due to all the undisturbed fields of pollinating species and the planted milkweed that the Monarchs need. Monarch Watch is a nonprofit education, conservation, and research program based at the University of Kansas that focuses on the monarch butterfly, its habitat, and its spectacular fall migration.

 

The birds are back in town

June 14 2017, 13:33 PM

The birds are back in town

NB Power line technicians and other crews work alongside different types of nature within their day-to-day jobs. Trees, shrubs and even squirrels can interfere with power lines and other electrical structures. One of the main threats to energized equipment are birds, particularly ospreys, or larger birds of prey.

In order to ensure safe, reliable energy to our customers while also keeping osprey populations safe, NB Power follows an Avian Protection Plan (APP). The APP is designed to protect migratory birds by reducing the number of interactions birds make with electrical equipment. This is accomplished by identifying high-traffic osprey areas and modifying our structures with safer parts. The APP also directs maintenance crews on how to avoid and, when necessary, handle active bird nests.

Ospreys are attracted to utility poles because they serve as vantage points for hunting, roosting sites, eating platforms, a place to nest, territorial boundary markers and shelter from the elements. Usually birds can interact with utility poles without any harm coming to them, but there is always a risk of the birds coming in contact with the energized equipment- this can be dangerous for both the birds and our equipment, as it can cause harm to the birds and cause power outages for our customers.

Baby birds are at even greater risk, as they awkwardly move around equipment while learning to fly. Sticks or other nesting material that fall from the nest can also cause short circuits.

We take several measures to prevent harm from coming to birds and potential outages from their activity. This includes developing a special training program for employees who are directly involved with the design, construction, operation and maintenance of electrical facilities and equipment.

We also have plans in place to avoid building transmission lines in the following areas whenever possible:

  • wetlands;
  • known bird concentration areas (sensitive areas, ecological reserves, etc.);
  • daily movement flyways (e.g., between a wetland and adjacent agricultural field);
  • habitat of species at risk; and
  • areas with a high incidence of fog and mist

Osprey contact with transmission lines usually occur on lines that are close to areas where ducks, geese and other large water birds frequently fly. In up to 90%of cases, birds come in contact with an overhead wire instead of the more visible energized conductors. Approaching birds will often fly upwards to avoid the conductors, only to hit the wire. Research has shown that removing the overhead wire can decrease those collisions by half.

NB Power has plans in place to place lines in a way that reduce the risk of ospreys and other large birds making contact with these lines. For example, we build new transmission lines at the same height or lower than nearby trees and vegetation. Birds will gain altitude to fly over the obvious tree line and avoid any contact with the line.

Finally, we work with the Department of Natural Resources to build high wooden platforms to encourage nest-building away from our poles. When we discover active nests on our structures, we assess to determine if they are immediate threats to the electrical system. If the nest doesn’t pose a threat, we will inspect the area after the osprey chicks leave the nest (end of the summer) but before the following nesting season (early spring) takes place. After the baby birds have left the nest, we can transfer it to an adjacent osprey platform.

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