With biologist Erick Greene writing the final chapter, the story of a squatter named Clara came to an end Friday.

Last spring, the mother goose occupied an osprey nest perched atop a manmade platform at Ogren-Allegiance Park. This year, Clara’s attempts will be thwarted by a steel cage Greene installed on top of the platform.

“This was such a high-profile nest,” said Greene, a University of Montana biologist. “And there was so many (people) upset and letters to the Missoulian.”

Clara’s presumptuous move sparked a showdown between the mother goose and an osprey pair that arrived at their seasonal breeding grounds a bit later, but still eager to set up in the spot specifically designed for them.

It also resulted in hundreds of emails from concerned Missoula bird enthusiasts flooding Greene and geoscientist Heiko Langer, who helped Greene install the cage Friday.

“(Geese) have like a three-week advantage over the ospreys,” Langer explained. “They would establish themselves and lay their eggs and wouldn’t give up their nest.”

Oblivious to the controversy she had caused, Clara vigorously defended her newfound home from the ardent osprey pair, which desperately tried to reclaim the nest.

But who could blame her?

Geese normally nest on the ground on islands in rivers and ponds. With foxes, raccoons and dogs about – ready to devour her offspring – the platform was prime real estate for the mother-to-be. Nesting options are already slim for geese, whose numbers seem to be increasing every year, Langer said.

“Last year, they were joking to rename the Osprey team the Geese because they were already mating up here,” he said.

The osprey pair was stressed as they attempted, unsuccessfully, to build a nest in the stadium’s lights and atop a nearby construction crane. Those nests were continually taken down by Missoula Osprey and construction company management, creating even more community concern about the birds and their future family.

“It was so much,” Greene said. “People were getting really upset.”

Eventually, the ospreys built a precarious nest atop a 100-kilovolt line next to the Montana Natural History Center on Hickory Street – well in view of the mother goose, which was busy tending to her goslings. Before anyone could deter them from nesting there, the ospreys were anxiously awaiting a pair of chicks.

NorthWestern Energy maintained the nest, trimming and removing any wire the birds added to it.

***

Cage in hand, Greene on Friday rose above the baseball stadium in the bucket of a truck donated by Garden City Tree Service. He spent about 15 minutes arranging the cone over the osprey platform and securing it with wire.

It will keep the geese out for the next few weeks, while the ospreys are fly back to their breeding grounds.

This year, when the ospreys show up, Greene will climb into the bucket again and remove goose deterrent from the platform. Hopefully, the pair will move right in without any trouble from their noisy neighbors, which should be settled into their own nests by then.

“I suspect (the ospreys) will come back and take it over right away,” Langer said.

Greene echoed Langer’s optimism, but said that doesn’t mean they will have it easy. Their old nest is in rough shape; geese don’t maintain nests like ospreys are known to do.

Migrating geese have already established themselves in Osprey territory, roaming the outfield in pairs. It’s unknown if Clara is among them, but they’ve been eying the nest from the stadium, Langer said.

As Greene secured the wire cone over the osprey platform, the geese honked a noisy protest. Eventually, as if acknowledging defeat, the birds migrated toward the dugouts and away from the nest that is expected to be occupied by an amorous osprey couple in a few weeks.

Reporter Kathryn Haake can be reached at 523-5268 or at kate.haake@missoulian.com.

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(9) comments

Bittersweet
Bittersweet

Doitright said ".........in this area the fish are contaminated with heavy metal poisoning"

Doitright said "....The Clark Fork has been largely cleaned up in this area"

Ummmmmmm......So which one of your comments is a lie? You can't have both.

Objective observer

Good comment. Doitright's comments are internally inconsistent. While there are slightly elevated levels of metals in river sediments through town, the fish are not "contaminated with heavy metal poisoning."

Go'Cats
Go'Cats

Bittersweet makes a good point.

However, I think this is a situation in which human intervention is acceptable. I don't consider the Osprey "more important" than the geese, but I support the idea of accommodating our local popular demand.

If these actions prevented the geese from finding a nesting spot, or put them in harms way, I would certainly feel different. But that doesn't appear to be the case, and it will be good to have the Ospreys back as a neighbor.

Bittersweet
Bittersweet

I hear you and agree. I personally don't have a problem with it I just thought it was interesting what environmentalists think is "ok" and what isn't. I guess it's all relative.

Bittersweet
Bittersweet

I guess I am the only one that thinks this intervention is a bit odd? People cry and scream about letting nature take it's course. The early bird (goose) gets the worm. What makes the Osprey more important?

DoItRight
DoItRight

The problem is that humans have already greatly messed up this balance of nature.

Osprey feed on fish, and in this area the fish are contaminated with heavy metal poisoning from that past 100+ years of mining. These levels get concentrated in the birds and their numbers are on a huge decline.

Geese, on the other hand eat a lot of grain. They have an abundance of food through their migratory route, just from eating spilled grain in farm fields.

I hope that this helps you understand.

Bittersweet
Bittersweet

I personally could care less that this was done I just thought it was interesting that it was. Your explanation (doitright) is laughable. You are telling me they want this osprey to nest in an area where there are contaminated fish to feed it's young?

Please explain. I guess I still don't understand why you would encourage a bird (whos numbers are apparently in a huge decline) to nest in an area with contaminated food?

DoItRight
DoItRight

You might want to get out more and away from Fox news.

The Clark Fork has been largely cleaned up in this area (news flash).

Bittersweet
Bittersweet

So this has nothing to do with the baseball team, just poison fish?

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