Every now and then, readers pass along photos, seeking help in answering mysterious outdoor-related questions. Although I spend a lot of time outdoors, I typically reach out to real experts to help solve those mysteries.
That was the case recently, when Donna and Joe Merkel of Gouldsboro sent me a couple of cool photos and asked for help.
“In late fall we dumped a huge pile of wood chips next to our barn,” the Merkels wrote. “When we returned last week we found that something had made a huge depression and lined it with reeds. We were wondering what animal would have made this comfy bed.”
I sent the photos along to Brad Allen, the bird group leader of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and a group of biologists at the DIF&W. Before long, Allen replied, but said he’d also enlisted the help of his co-workers.
“My first thought would be Canada goose if there is a pond nearby, but these people would know if there are geese around I suspect. “This would be a good place for a trail camera if the activity is all nocturnal. I sent this around to my staff today, let’s see what we get from them.”
A few days later, Allen got back in touch. It seemed we’d stumped the panel of experts. “No one in my group has any insights for you, [One colleague] says it looks like an Australian black swan nest (I can’t debate her on that one since I have never seen one and another replied ‘I hope it’s not a mute swan nest,’ as we don’t want this invasive species nesting in Maine either. It does look like a large waterfowl type starter nest (e.g. Canada goose) but obviously there would need to be a pond nearby and the landowners would have observed large conspicuous territorial birds. So we don’t know, sorry.”
Another source I reached out to, DIF&W bear specialist Randy Cross, also had an opinion.
“It certainly looks big enough to be a bear bed but it seems like an unlikely location. The added bedding material also does not look like the common choice,” Cross wrote. “Otherwise it looks exactly like a bear’s daybed or ground nest.”
Armed with those responses, I circled back around to the Merkels, who explained that the site of the nest is not in a place that sees a lot of activity. The site is, however, within about 1,200 feet of a pond.
“We have a lot of Canada Geese during the summer months but I think most of them head south during the winter. Bears are in the area. I’m never seen any swans,” they wrote.
All of which means that we’ve still got a mystery on our hands. So, BDN readers, I’m throwing the question out to you: What do you think made this nest?