Have you ever seen something in nature that struck you as odd? In May of 2009 I saw something that I thought was very odd. I was driving into Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley from the west and off to my right not far from the Lamar River I saw a large nest atop a dead tree. My first thought was that it was probably an osprey nest or maybe a bald eagle nest. I slowed down and pulled over. I could see there was something in the nest, but it was too far to see what it was exactly. I decided to grab my big lens and tripod and hike closer to the nest. After a bit I stopped. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It looked like a Canada goose. I looked through my lens. It was a Canada goose.
This was a new one for me. Canada geese nest on the ground, usually in wetlands. What was this one doing up in a raptor’s nest? Maybe it had learned the hard way that eggs laid on the ground in the Lamar Valley don’t last long. I checked every day for over a week and there was always a goose in the nest. There had to be eggs there. Will the eggs fare better in a raptor’s nest at the top of a tall tree? Maybe. Maybe not. Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge, Canada geese don’t feed their young like birds of prey do. The goslings will have to get down to the ground and to the river soon after they hatch. I know some waterfowl species like wood ducks nest in tree cavities and the young drop down to the ground, but this is a very tall tree and the branches extend well away from the trunk, especially in the lower portion of the tree outside the framing of the image. Finally, how will they walk across all those branches with their webbed feet?
When I returned to Yellowstone in May of this year I looked to the nest as I entered Lamar Valley. There was a bird in it again. This time it was an osprey.
I’ve often wondered what happened to the offspring of the Canada geese. Did the eggs survive to hatching? If so, did the goslings make it safely down the tree and to the river? I guess I’ll never know.