The ospreys have returned to a newly renovated home on Lake Lanier.
The fish-eating bird of prey has taken up residence annually on Boling Bridge, or the Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway crossing from Hall County into Forsyth. This year is no exception, even as the Georgia Department of Transportation did some offseason work to the bridge.
“We are thrilled that our plan to work on the bridge while the birds were migrating worked,” said Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the DOT’s Gainesville office. “We got our work done to ensure the bridge is safe for motorists and the ospreys got their summer lake home back — a true win-win for everyone.”
The bird’s nesting season had posed a tricky situation for the DOT in terms of when 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.
Winter weather also presented challenges to complete the work.
“The constraints ... led to an unusual around-the-clock weekend closure of the bridge for six weekends this fall,” Pope said in a January interview.
The $586,000 project involved repairs to the bridge’s large green beams, which were severely bent because of vehicles such as bucket trucks and cranes hitting them again and again, year after year.
As part of the work, workers removed the largest nest and, using a large metal sign, delivered it to the Elachee Nature Science Center in Gainesville.
An Elachee employee later built a 4-foot by 4-foot wooden platform to support the nest in an exhibit.
Todd McDuffie, DOT district engineer, said at the time the DOT looked forward to the osprey’s return this spring.
“We hope they enjoy their newly straightened and repainted bridge,” he said.
Peter Gordon, education director at Elachee, said center employees have been watching the 55-year-old bridge to see if osprey would return.
“And then the first semblance of a small nest began to show and folks spotted the bird, and now it’s a good-sized nest,” he said.
“We felt like the birds would return unless something happened to them during their migration, but they have a good deal of loyalty to a site.”
Gordon said the nest has drawn considerable interest at the center.
“It’s a real popular exhibit,” he said. “So many folks don’t even know that the ospreys are here and what a wonderful addition they are ... to the Lake Lanier ecology.”