The Guntersville school system is in the middle of a big sports lighting project, replacing the old lights with new energy-efficient LED lighting. But there was some question about whether they would be able to replace the lights on the highest poles in the middle of Chorba-Lee Stadium before football season.
The highest poles on each side of the stadium have held an opsrey nest for several years.
"The nests have to be unoccupied before they can be disturbed as the ospreys, while not an endangered species, are protected by the Migratory Bird Act," said Jeff Mims, director of maintenance for the city school system.
He said the two highest light poles have each held a huge nest for years.
"The problem is, not only were they in the way of the lights being replaced, they make a terrible mess on the bleachers," Mims said. "And, for some reason, the mess is a lot worse on the visitor side! We didn't train them to do that."
The contractor on the light project removed the 2 large nests in January, before the ospreys arrived. But before they could get the lights replaced, the ospreys had rebuilt the nests and the were young in the nests.
"It was getting down to the wire so we were desperate to get them removed but wanted some official, authoritative guidance on the subject," Mims said.
After several email exchanges, USDA Wildlife Services sent two men out a little over a week ago to observe the nests and activity, he said.
Mims had gotten excellent pictures of the nests and the birds throughout the season using a drone from Ed Ralston, Aerial Imagery. He emailed those photos and videos to the Wildlife Services Migratory Bird Permit Office, who gave permission to remove the nests and install the new lights.
"The young were still present, in and out of the nest, but because 'the juveniles don't need the nest any longer to survive since they are feeding on their own and the parents have left' (quote from biologist's email), permission was granted," Mims said.
So the school system was able to proceed with the project just in time and football fans and players will enjoy new lighting at the stadium this fall.