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A home for the birds: Power company helps house herons

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29 2013 5:28 p.m. MDT

Rocky Mountain Power sets up nesting platforms for great blue heron by using old utility poles at the Great Salt Lake Nature Center in Farmington on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

FARMINGTON — Extreme weather has made it difficult for great blue herons to move into their new home. But with the help of Rocky Mountain Power on Thursday afternoon, eight new nesting platforms were installed for the birds.

Deteriorated poles, extreme winds, wet and cold ground, and a nest of baby owls thwarted the power company's plan to install the poles at the Robert N. Hasenyager Great Salt Lake Nature Center for almost two years.

Diana Vos, director of the center, said the new platforms have been a long time coming.

"I'm glad that they're getting them up," she said. "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."

Vos said the new poles, replacing two fallen poles and four that have deteriorated, will give the 4-foot-tall birds a place to lay eggs in February or March.

David Eskelsen, Rocky Mountain Power spokesman, said the company had available crews and equipment and wanted to help. He said it also prevents problems with the company's power lines.

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

Vos said the birds will nest on the ground if there's nowhere else for them to go, but said they prefer to be up high.

"I'm sure they will (use the platforms)," she said. "They know it's there. … They will come back and use it again, I'm certain."

Eskelsen said Rocky Mountain Power has had success with the platforms along the Bear River, in Mona and in other wetland areas — including some locations in Idaho.

"They're very successful, particularly in this location," he 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."

Vos said the center is a perfect place for the nesting platforms to keep the birds from threatening power lines, while offering a place where the public can watch the birds.

Janis Farrell, a fourth-grade teacher at Wasatch Elementary School, said she has taken her class to the nature center for the past five or six years and said it is wonderful.

“If I wasn’t a teacher, I would like to work out there,” she said. “It’s a really great place for fourth-grade students to go learn about the Utah environment.”

Farrell said the students get to use binoculars to see the birds and visit two stations inside for more hands-on learning.

“They’ve really improved a lot,” she said. “It’s a great place.”

Email: eeagar@deseretnews.com,Twitter: EmileeEagar

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