A Canada goose sits in an eagle nest that it has claimed as its own. Credit: Courtesy of Mike Collins

When you’re looking for a cool nature photo, sometimes the best tactic is to stop looking at things that surround us on the ground, and take a gander up in the air. If you get lucky, you might find something really interesting up there.

That’s what happened to Mike Collins, who sent along a couple of unexpected photos he took while on a bike ride near Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, Washington. They’re not really “trail cam” pics, but I think you’ll agree that the story is worth checking out.

“At first I thought what I was looking at was an eagle’s nest. But the zoom lens surprised me to reveal a Canada goose sitting on its eggs,” Collins said. “The nest is at least 35 feet up in the air. I hope the goslings find the courage to jump from so high a perch.

This nest, high in a tree, wouldn’t seem to be a place you’d expect to find a Canada goose, but that’s exactly where one decided to roost recently. The opportunistic goose took advantage of the fact that no eagles were present and moved into the nest. Credit: Courtesy of Mike Collins

“They are interesting photos because of their oddity. One doesn’t usually think of Canada geese nesting in trees. It undoubtedly did not construct the nest but obtained squatter’s rights by being the first to arrive at an empty nest,” Collins said. “Maybe real estate is at such a premium in the Seattle area that with all the lakefront land taken up the geese have to adapt and explore other niches to survive.”

I got a chuckle out of the photos, and sent them along to Brad Allen, a wildlife biologist who serves as the bird group leader for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. I was curious to see if he had any other thoughts on the sky-high geese.

“Certainly interesting,” Allen said. “In general, eagles start nesting well before Canada geese. If the eagle pair were still using this nest they built in a previous year, they would have no problem defending it from a goose. For some unknown reason the eagle pair has died or perhaps has built another nest somewhere else. My thought is that the nest was open real estate to whatever bird that wanted it.”

Allen said some bird species do take up residence in nests built by others.

“I’ve seen great horned owls take over other’s nests. And I have heard of Canada geese nesting on cliffs along large rivers. The important thing is they pick a nest site that has the fewest ground predators around, and the bird in this photo is obviously away from most land mammals except raccoons that could climb the tree to egg rob (as they have been known to do with tree nesting great blue herons),” he said. “One common goose nesting location I see here in Maine is a nest on top of a beaver house. isolated in the middle of a pond and fairly easy to defend.”

And what about those goslings? How will they fare when they decide it’s time to leave their high-rise condo?

“The first departure from the nest will be a bit perilous for the downy young but fortunately they are so light they drop fairly softly — like a feather — which is easy for me to say but common in the bird world with tree nesting waterfowl,” Allen said. “Cool shot. Uncommon but probably not unheard of.”

Do you have a trail camera photo or video to share? Send it to jholyoke@bangordailynews.com and tell us “I consent to the BDN using my photo.” In order to prevent neighbors from stopping by to try to tag particularly large bucks, moose or bears, some identities and towns of origin may be omitted.

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...