Kitimat LNG project team successfully relocates 

osprey nest to new home

Picking up a home and moving it to a new location is no small task. It requires significant planning, permitting, training and equipment.  

Now imagine the home is perched on top of a 24-metre-high pole and must be moved, under a tight timeline during severe winter weather conditions, to an even loftier locale without the eagle-eyed residents ever noticing the slight change in address upon returning from their annual migration.

Sound like a tall order?

That was the challenge faced by a members of Chevron Canada’s Kitimat LNG Project team, who in March 2017 successfully relocated an osprey nest on a project work site while the raptors were at their winter migratory grounds, which stretch from the southern United States to South America. 

“Our ospreys have returned and we have a mating pair in the nest,” “Keira Baker, project execution lead, said of the relocation operation which was completed March 15 following months of careful planning. “All signs indicate that they are going to accept the new nesting location.”

Logical Choice

The ospreys took up residence at the Kitimat LNG Early Works Camp, located in the town of Kitimat, in approximately 2011, constructing a nest on top of an existing metal light pole in the middle of a parking lot. It was a logical choice: the light pole was the highest point in the area and was in proximity to the Kitimat River, where the predatory birds hunt for fish.

Yet while it’s not unusual for ospreys to select man-made structures as a nesting location, it’s not always in their best interests. A key consideration is that during the nesting period, from April to the end of August, the mating pair and their young may be sensitive to noise and human activity.

In recognition of this, Chevron on many occasions in recent years has postponed or halted work activities on the site to protect the birds from any potential adverse impacts. However, with ongoing maintenance of existing infrastructure on the site being planned in the future, it was decided that it was in the best interest of the ospreys to move their nest to a more suitable location.

Months of careful planning went into finding a new location, and a B.C. government permit was subsequently received to relocate the nest to the perimeter of the site, about 152 metres from the original location.

“The nest is still located on the KLNG industrial site, but it’s now situated in an open area that is away from anticipated future activities,” said Baker. “It’s far enough away that the ospreys should not be impacted by humans, noise or machinery.”

Throughout the process, Chevron shared information and sought feedback on the relocation plan with the Haisla Nation, the band government of the local Haisla people, and the Kitimat Valley Naturalists, a local environmental organization.

“Year after year, the Kitimat Valley Naturalists have tracked and monitored the ospreys at our location with guided tours,” said Sandra Bovingdon, community liaison representative for Chevron. “I’m quite excited that we were able to work together to ensure the ospreys would accept their new location, which supports our shared goal of preserving the local environment.”

New Location

The ospreys' new home has features designed to please the most discerning bird of prey:  it comprises a 27-metre-high steel pole, three metres taller than the previous perch, and has a customized aluminum platform to safely secure the 1.5-metre-by-one-metre nest against the strongest winds and heaviest snows. 

Site work began in March to erect the new pole. Then, over a two-day period, the nest was carefully lowered from the existing pole and transferred to the new, higher tower.

“We made significant efforts to stabilize the nest, properly supporting it underneath, to ensure it wasn’t damaged during the lifting process,” Baker commented. “The relocation was executed perfectly. The team successfully mitigated weather impacts and completed the project on schedule. We couldn’t have asked for it to go any better.”

Deterrents were installed at the old nest location and other areas around the industrial site to discourage the osprey from building a new nest at a different location.

On April 20, the ospreys were spotted in the area, and the pair have since returned to their original nest. A monitoring program will be in place through the nesting season to confirm the success of the relocation program.