The ospreys' work was impressive. Large sticks and branches, gathered from nearby almost certainly by the male, had been rearranged by his female partner into a square shape - the base of a nest the two would use for many years to come.
It was, seemingly, a perfect spot for their breeding home. High up, in a wide open area in rural Grey Eagle, and with ample fishing opportunities (including Big Swan Lake) nearby.
There was one problem. They'd chosen the top of a high voltage power pole that threatened to burn the birds' carefully constructed nest.
For Stearns Electric Association, the solution was obvious: Build them a new place to call home.
"We knew we needed to take it down," Whitner Divletson, marketing and communications supervisor for the electrical cooperative, told Bring Me The News, "and we knew we needed to rebuild something for them so that they could have a safe place to call home."
Twelve days after Stearns Electric Association learned of the nest, they had a brand new, taller nest platform ready to go. On June 4, crew members erected this new platform nearby and watched as the avian pair quickly took over. (You can see photos of the osprey nest and new platform installation below.)
Osprey platform installation
"I am always happy to see a power company step up and provide a suitable nesting spot for some ospreys," said Vanessa Greene, director of Twin Cities Metro Osprey Watch.
Ospreys, much like bald eagles, were critically endangered in the 20th century due to habitat loss, DDT pesticides and human impact. In southern Minnesota, the once-abundant raptors were "largely eliminated" as a breeding species, Greene said.
A DDT ban, coupled with a concerted reintroduction that started in 1984, helped them rebound, and Greene now monitors 159 known osprey nests around the Twin Cities. She said the species frequently builds nests on things such as utility poles, cell towers and lighting fixtures at athletic fields.
"The increase in nest attempts on manmade structures is a sign of the osprey's wonderful adaptation to living around people," she said, "where we can enjoy watching them go through their breeding cycle."
Divletson said Stearns Electric Association has built nest platforms for ospreys two or three times in the past decade. In this most recent instance, the cooperative obtained the needed permits from the Minnesota DNR while working with the owner of the land on which the pole is located.
"We are a local electric cooperative, so we are very concerned with our local community and we care about the environment too," Divletson said. "We knew that if we didn't do something the osprey could come back and build a nest on our power pole again."
She said the ospreys quickly took to the new nesting spot, and have collected and organized sticks and branches.
According to Greene, these substitute platforms are "usually a very effective solution" for moving an unoccupied osprey nest.
"If the diversionary pole offered is slightly taller than their chosen location, they almost always will accept it," she said, noting it needs to be high up, near a fishable spot and away from tall trees so as to avoid one of their main predators, the great horned owl.
It's unlikely, however, this particular osprey pair will successfully breed this year. Osprey usually migrate south starting in September, and there likely isn't enough time for the birds to lay eggs, incubate, then feed and watch over the young for another three months.
But Stearns Electric Association's work likely won't go to waste. The pair will use this summer to build a nest and establish territory, Greene said, and will almost certainly return to the same spot in the years ahead.