Protecting a threatened species: Building a new nest for endangered hawks at Soderglen wind facility
Near to collapse
When a known ferruginous hawk nest in a willow tree on the Soderglen Wind Farm was inspected last year, Chad Macy, environmental specialist, wind services, found that the tree was near to collapsing.
“These hawks build huge, heavy nests. This particular nest was resting precariously in a dilapidated willow on the lone prairie about three meters high off the ground,” says Macy.
“We’ve been monitoring the nest for years and we wanted to make sure these hawks continue to have a home, so we decided to build an artificial nest nearby since the tree will likely blow down in the near future.”
The ferruginous hawk
The ferruginous hawk is listed as an endangered species in Alberta.
These hawks are somewhat confined to using the remaining areas of grassland in southern Alberta for breeding, so it’s important to ensure they have a place to nest.
Although they spend their winters in the southwestern United States and Mexico; the hawks will be arriving back to Alberta in late March, so the team focused on installing the nest platform prior to their arrival.
Building a new home for the locals
Working with Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP), Macy got a plan for building the nest and sent it to operations for help.
“The guys on site were awesome. They looked at the plan and found some scrap materials that would work, which were pretty much ready to go when I arrived to help construct and install it,” Macy says.
The artificial nest platform was installed on March 11, 2015 and by late April, a pair of ferruginous hawks were observed in the project area. The pair were confirmed to be using the newly constructed nest platform instead of the old nest by the end of May.
“We monitored the hawks periodically throughout the early part of the summer and we were excited to see they were successful in producing at least two chicks in 2015,” says Macy, who with colleague, Mike Peckford, senior environmental specialist, continue to monitor the success of the nest.
Sustainability projects at TransAlta’s wind sites
The nest project is an example of various wildlife habitat initiatives that are part of the Wind Stewardship Planning and Environmental Reporting (WiSPER) program, designed as a long term initiative by the Wind Services group to create and implement sustainability initiatives at our wind sites.
Additional WiSPER programs have recently been implemented at several of our operating sites. Some of these initiatives include ongoing wildlife monitoring for sensitive species, instituting our Avian Protection Plan (i.e., bird protection covers on overhead components), installation of mountain bluebird and tree swallow nest boxes, and delivering wind energy educational programs to local school children.
These programs are just one example of how sustainability is central to how we do business.
Learn more about TransAlta’s commitment to sustainability.