A reader wants to know: What made this nest?

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.

A couple in Gouldsboro found this nest in a pile of wood chips on their property. Do you have any idea what may have made the nest? (Photo courtesy of Donna and Joe Merkel)

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?

John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.