In my last blog I mentioned 2 nesting platforms: The Johannis North Nest which was badly tilting and in need of repair, and the New Jacobs Point Nest that was about to be built. After writing my last blog I got to work on both project simultaneously. The first step was a trip to a local lumber yard where we purchased all the necessary materials:
- (2) 8 ft. 6×6 posts
- (2) 12 ft. 2×8 boards
- (1) 8 ft. 2×6 board
- (4) 8 ft. 2×4 boards
- (1) roll of wire fence
- (2) 10 x 1/2 inch bolts
- (10) 4 x 3/8 inch lag bolts
- (1) Large box 3-inch decking screws
- (4) 3 ft. metal straps
- (1) Box wire staples.
- (1) Drill bit 12 x ½ inch
- (8) 50 lb. bags of quick-crete cement
Cost – $175.00
Repairing the Johannis North Nest
Though I worked on both projects at the same time I’ll cover them individually here. The highest priority was the Johannis North nest. This is an established nest and when the birds return they will head for the platform. I didn’t want them to find an empty pole and possibly move. This pair produced the largest brood in RI last summer (4) and we wanted to be able to keep track of them. I set about building the new nesting platform. Once I had completed it we set a date and my wife, Cyndy, Dick Kaiser and I headed out to the platform on a cold and windy Saturday afternoon.
Traversing through a salt marsh
I don’t know how many of you have actually been out in a salt marsh but it is not a friendly environment, especially for shoes. Wellingtons are the footwear of choice. Negotiating about ¼ mile of marsh to get to the nest is also daunting. It requires picking your way past a series of trenches, inlets, pot holes, mud holes, and assorted other obstacles, all while carrying a couple of hundred pounds of gear. The object is to get where you’re going with dry feet and no lost gear. If you looked at our track to get out there it would resemble someone drunk without any sense of direction. In this case the shortest route is not a straight line.
Once we reached the pole, we set about mounting the platform on the tilting pole so the platform was level. Whoever developed battery powered tools must have had a project like this in mind. My battery operated power drill-screwdriver and battery powered skill saw made this job a lot easier than it otherwise would have been. It took us about 90 minutes to get the platform on top of the pole and secure. While we were in the middle of the project I heard Cyndy say, “Is that a Great Blue Heron?” Dick Kaiser looked and said, “No, I think it’s a Bald Eagle”! I was on top of the ladder mounting the platform but stopped to take a look too. Sure enough it banked and revealed the white tail and head. We watched her soar over the river and across Merriman’s Pond, heading for the golf course. I finished securing the new platform to the pole. We did some bracing on the pole and when we left, the new nesting platform was level and the pole solid. With the platform secure all we can do now is wait for the birds to return.
Building the New Jacob’s Point Platform
While I worked on the Johannis Platform I also built the entire setup for the new Jacob’s Point nesting platform including footing, support pole, and nesting platform. I built it all in my backyard. This had to be done because working in a marsh is very restrictive, no power being the biggest obstacle. Once I had it all built I disassembled it into 3 pieces, footing, support pole and platform. I also used a design by Andy Souther. It uses a hinging point to raise the nesting platform on the footing — a much easier process than trying to put the whole thing in at once.
The first step was to install the footing. We got permission from the state to drive my truck out on the bike path. This way we were able to get the materials relatively close. Neither Dick Kaiser, Mike Gerhardt, nor myself wanted to lug 400 lbs. of cement, tools, and a 60 lb. footing any further than we had to. We used a garden cart to pull the cement out to the site, and carried the rest. We found the spot we had gotten the permit for and started digging.
It went relatively easy, hitting mud, then clay and finally sand. The sand was as far as we could go. Water was getting in the hole and we couldn’t get the sand out, it would just wash out of the post hole digger as soon as we started to lift it out. We also couldn’t get all the water out. We made the decision to pour the cement in the hole and let the water from the marsh mix with it. It worked perfectly and in about 45 minutes it was setting and the support pole was locked in and plumb.
Because of high wind warnings we had to wait to put the platform up. We decided on Monday, March 12. As it turned out we couldn’t have picked a better day. With a record temperature of 72 degrees it was beautiful out in the marsh. We had more than enough help. Wenley Ferguson, director-habitat restoration, Save The Bay, Marilyn Mathison, head of The Warren Land Trust, Drew Winner, Mike Gerhardt, Doug Matern, Dick Kaiser, Cyndy Lombardi, Ted Hayes from the East Bay Newspapers, all showed up to support the project.
We mounted the support pole with a single bolt, this would be the pivot point. We attached the nesting platform to the support pole. Ropes were attached to opposite sides of the support pole. With some of the people on the ropes the rest of the crew raised the platform up until the ropes took over and pulled it up vertical. With the placing of the second bolt the project was complete except for some decking screws for added strength. As we walked out of the marsh, I stopped to look back at the platform lit by the late afternoon sun. It looked like it belonged.
Now all that’s left is to see if a new pair of birds will accept the platform. It now becomes a waiting game.