Birds in Trees–Natural, Right?

When we walked the Nisqually Delta on a warm spring day last week, this was a sight we never expected to see. I’m guessing you’ve never seen it, either.

Nisqually Delta, to set the scene of this abnormality, is a jewel of Washington State–almost 800 acres restored to a natural estuary, located just north of Olympia. It had been diked for farmland, but in 1974, the area was bought up and made into a refuge. This was about the first time I visited it. Then in 2009 the dikes were removed. The refuge now has four miles of trails, much of it in wooden walkways over the tidal flats, although I enjoyed the walks beside the river and through the woods even more. When we returned the second day early in the morning, we were able to see more birds, and what was probably a beaver swimming near us.

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Beyond the woods, the boardwalk extends over tide lands

These were days for swallows practicing their acrobatics. We also saw a red-winged blackbird, green-winged teal, robins and sparrows, coot, grebe, mallard ducks, bufflehead ducks, shoveler duck, great blue heron, and gulls. We watched bird-watchers watching hummingbirds, but never saw them ourselves. One of our best sightings was a pair of beautiful wood ducks up close. With the leaves not quite open on the trees, we had a good view of the birds.

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A pair of handsome wood ducks

The second day brought the surprise. We came upon a bird-watcher with his tripod focused high up into a cottonwood tree. When we asked what he had found, he pointed–there, high up in a fork of the cottonwood, sat a Canadian goose! It took me a moment to remember that geese have webbed feet. They do NOT land in trees. But this silly goose had. My companion, a veteran bird-watcher who is always excited about any sighting, just about fell over, “That’s the damndest thing I’ve ever seen!” Tripod Man agreed.

A short distance down the path we met a woman who was watching a hummingbird nest, so we led her down the path to the goose. She was quite excited, “So that’s what they were talking about! I had been asking at the visitor center about the long-eared owl. I watch for that nest being built every spring and hadn’t seen it this year yet. They told me that the eggs hadn’t hatched, the owl had abandoned the nest, and a goose had taken it over!”

The goose we saw wasn’t setting on a nest–you can see him in the photo standing in the tree, but I’m guessing it’s the same one.

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Can you find the goose in the tree?

After a little bit of research, I learned that geese in trees are indeed occasionally seen, but not often. One Nisqually Delta blogger says that they are seen quite often at the Delta, but these two birders we met had never seen them before.

Spectacular place to visit! The two weekdays we were there were the first warm days of the year, and there was a parade of moms with strollers and small children, old birders like us, and flocks of photographers with tripods. They were all as much fun to watch as the wildlife.

When I recently experienced a grief spell over the lack of interest in tending to climate change problems, I decided I could do three things to deal with it. One, I would contribute what I could to 3-4 very reputable groups who are actively campaigning to protect the earth. Secondly, I would write letters occasionally to newspapers or organizations about climate change issues–and mention them in conversations, as well. Finally, I would spend more time treasuring and enjoying all the natural beauty around me. Part of that beauty is the unexpected–geese in trees!