April 2017: Will the Drama Ever End

Over the years, we have had a lot of exciting events occur at the ospreys’ nest. Some have been incredibly joyful, such as chicks hatching and fledging, BIG fish deliveries, and the return of the adults each spring. Some events have been scary and have had our web-camera viewers holding their breath. Attacks by eagles, and even once by a great blue heron, fall into that category. And, unfortunately, some events have been terribly sad, such as the death of Ozzie or one of the chicks. This real-life drama seems to pull us back and tune us in time and again.

This season seems to have gotten off with an extra dose of drama and excitement. Even before Harriet showed up, we fretted about the Canada geese pair that regularly checked out the nest, looking like a newly married couple conducting a real-estate tour in the hopes of finding just the right home. Absent some kind of “goose-deterring” device on the nest, all we could do was hold our breath and rush out to make noise—and lots of it—with the intention of scaring them away. It worked, for the most part, as the couple nearly always departed with us shouting or lobbing an occasional tennis ball in their direction.

However, right after Harriet landed on the nest for the first time in 2017, the female goose snuck into the nest and immediately laid an egg—and that was just the beginning of a series of exciting events in store for Harriet during her first few days. Watch the videos to see the full story!

Below is some information that Dunrovin obtained from the web about osprey nests and geese in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana from Auk, Volume 89:

Geese are present in the Bitterroot River region throughout the year, and begin nesting activities about mid-March. They choose a wide variety of aerial nesting sites, including nests built by Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias), Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo }amaicensis), and Ospreys. Several pairs of Ospreys nest here every year; I saw the first ones in 1969 on 3 April and in 1970 on 9 April. In 1969 a pair of Ospreys apparently evicted a nesting pair of geese that had occupied the nest before they arrived. The gander, however, refused to abandon his post and defended his territory despite frequent harassment. On one occasion this gander with two other geese flew directly toward the nest. One goose dove at the Osprey sitting in the cup of the nest; the goose’s breast missed the Osprey’s head by only a few inches. The Ospreys immediately gave chase, but the attacking goose made two more passes at the nest when an Osprey tried to land. Meanwhile a third Osprey came in from the north and joined the fracas. The geese and Ospreys chased one another for a full minute, at times resorting to complicated aerial maneuvers. The conflict ended with the Ospreys chasing the geese away and reclaiming the nest. I later found several shells from broken goose eggs on the ground at the base of the tree.

This type of conflict may be common in this area in years when a late spring causes an overlap in the nesting seasons of the geese and the Ospreys. In 1970 a pair of Ospreys established a nest on an artificial nesting platform 50 feet high over a pool in Rayalii National Wildlife Refuge. Some 20 to 40 geese were always present on this pool, and conflicts between them and the Ospreys were seen frequently during April, May, and June. The Ospreys regularly took wing and pursued any geese that came within about 40 yards of the nest. As soon as the geese had retreated to the edge of this territory, the Ospreys returned to their nest and/or waiting post. Flying geese were ignored unless they came close over the nest; ducks were never chased. In years when weather conditions allow geese to begin nesting in early March, some Osprey nests get double usage. In 1970 a pair of geese nested in an Osprey nest atop a 90-foot snag. Seven goslings left this nest on 16 April. The next morning an Osprey was seen in the nest eating the shells and/or egg membranes left by the geese. Two weeks later this nest was occupied by a pair of Ospreys, which ultimately fledged two young.–D•is L. FLATIt, Montana Fish and Game Department, Libby, Montana 59923. Accepted 20 May 71.

Enjoy more articles from the Dunrovin Lifestyle Magazine!