Adult female northern goshawk feeding her nestling.photo provided
Adult female northern goshawk feeding her nestling.photo provided

Sometimes, just because of the sheer numbers of visitors who are out to "enjoy nature," bad things happen - such as what took place at the northern goshawk ("gos" as in gosh, without the 'h') nest out at the far end of Pine Street at "Calliope Crossing."

The nest is well known to birders all over the Northwest. I have seen it posted on several Internet sites that birders look at daily for birds to see and places to go. It's also on the itinerary for commercial birding tours - and that's where some of the trouble started...

Many local birders know about the site, and as far as I know, just about all of them have been polite and considerate of the bird's welfare when they visited the nest-site. The nest-tree is located only about 20 feet from the road, high up in a second-growth ponderosa pine.

Goshawks, like their kinfolk - Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks - do not like to be disturbed during nesting time. Ask Doug Beall; he's been taking photos of this Calliope Crossing nest since March of this year. He's polite, respectful and never leaves his vehicle, using it as a "photo blind," a hiding place where he can remain concealed and shoot photos. I used the same method for years. The hawk sees vehicles driving by all day long (and from the pile of beer bottles near Indian Ford Creek, at night as well), and has become acclimated to traffic. So, as long as people didn't leave their vehicle or appear as a threat, everything was normal.

Then, on May 24, everything went haywire at Calliope Crossing; Doug sent me this email...

"May 24 10:36 a.m. Short stop to see how the nesting is progressing. There for 15 minutes and bird tour van shows up with eight and go directly under nest tree and moderator begins his bird spiel and the female bolts from the nest and dives and screeches until the group walks away.

"About 4 min. She perches atop pine very disturbed and I imagine the chicks are in the nest and I leave even though I am 50 feet away she does not need the distress.

"Wow, these people have no clue nor seem to care to have any true compassion. I kept my mouth shut - they would not have liked my thoughts expressed."

Those people are what I call "slob birders." I saw too many of them when I was the manager of Ramsey Canyon Preserve in southeast Arizona - known in the '70s as the "Hummingbird Capitol of the World."

Non-caring and impolite birders parked themselves in lawn chairs directly under the feeders so they hogged the sighting while waiting for that "lifer" to appear. Once the bird was observed, it was scratched off their list and the person went on to cause a disturbance somewhere else. A busload of loud slob-birders caused the first recorded Berryline hummingbird nest in the U.S. to fail in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona.

But the sad story about the goshawk at the Calliope Crossing nest is that someone actually got into the nest. All the limbs on the nest tree were cut off - so getting into the nest with climbing-irons was easy.

While visiting the nest tree earlier this month with a wildlife biologist, we noticed the scars in the bark where pole-climbing spikes were used as someone ascended and descended the tree.

The scenario I see is someone climbing the tree, sending the adults off again in a panic. My hunch is one nestling was removed, and the resulting commotion caused the adults to abandon the nest site, leaving the other nestling to starve; its emaciated remains were found at the base of the tree.

If you have any information that will lead to the prosecution of the person or persons who stole the baby, caused the death of the nestling and abandonment of the nest, there is a reward fund going. When I asked Doug about it, he responded: "Yes Jim, I have contacted (East Cascades Audubon Society) recommending a reward being offered... I will put up $100 to start it off."

Here's hoping we hear what happened. The northern goshawk is a pretty rare bird, and to have one nesting so close to town was a pure delight.