When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday through February
Where: Elachee Nature Science Center, 2125 Elachee Drive, Gainesville
How much: $5, adults; $3, ages 2-12; free, children younger than 2 and Elachee members
More info: 770-535-1976 or elachee.org
The Georgia Department of Transportation and Elachee Nature Science Center in Gainesville have created an exhibit telling the story of the osprey, a fish-eating bird of prey that has taken up residence annually on Boling Bridge over Lake Lanier.
"This exciting new exhibit, located near our red-tailed hawk aviary, will provide a significant learning opportunity for the 30,000-plus students and others that visit Elachee each year," said Andrea Timpone, president and CEO of the center near Chicopee Village off Atlanta Highway.
The outdoor exhibit features a nest "saved from the bridge but not the birds," said Teri Pope, spokeswoman at the DOT's Gainesville office. "They are still living free."
Nesting season has taken place at the Ga. 53 bridge in West Hall for several years, posing a tricky situation for the DOT when it needed to repair the overhead truss system.
The department determined it would have to begin repairs after nesting season ended and the birds had migrated south.
"The constraints of the nesting season and winter weather led to an unusual around-the-clock weekend closure of the bridge for six weekends this fall," Pope said.
The largest nest "was removed and delivered to (the science center)," said Todd McDuffie, DOT district engineer.
Two other nests were just partially built, with DOT workers making sure there weren't any eggs in them before proceeding with the repairs, Pope said.
Elachee board member Robin Smith spearheaded the effort to get the nest to the center located in the 1,500-acre Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve.
"I live just west of that bridge ... so I've watched the ospreys for several summers now and we really enjoy them and watched them build their nest," she said. "I remember a few years ago when the DOT worked on that bridge, they tore the osprey nest down and threw it into Lake Lanier."
So, she decided to take action when she heard Pope
talking on the radio about the pending repairs to the bridge and having to work around nesting season.
Smith called Pope and, after some talks, the DOT agreed to the request and removed the nest on Sept. 9.
The DOT brought the nest to Elachee on a metal sign. An Elachee employee later built a 4-foot by 4-foot wooden platform to support the nest in the exhibit, said Smith, adding she is pleased with the outcome.
"There are thousands of children who come to this museum every year and they'll be thrilled," she said.
The nests aren't just made of wooden sticks and brush. The resourceful ospreys use whatever they can find, such as fishing line, in their construction.
"It just shows how those birds are master builders," Smith said.
The DOT, meanwhile, looks forward "to the osprey's return this spring," McDuffie said. "We hope they enjoy their newly straightened and repainted bridge."