In the park in my home town, it was not unusual to see flocks of Canada Geese. As far back as I can remember, they were always there, and as children, we fed them along with the ducks on a Sunday afternoon. Notices went up saying not to feed the gulls or the geese, but as the birds couldn’t read, they kept coming to our outstretched hands for their dinner.
In the 90s, I’d sometimes walk to the park in my lunch hour. I’d sit on a bench, take out my sandwich and book, and enjoy the fresh air and feathered company. There was one bird that always joined me. He only had one foot and I christened him Limpy Joe.
There was an article in the local paper about the mess the geese made in the park, and the council wanted to cull them. A few weeks previously, the death had been announced of The Goose Lady, a woman who had visited the park every day for over 60 years to feed the geese. Like me, many readers wrote into the paper, petitions were raised and if I remember correctly, a bench was installed in her memory at one of the lakes where she used to sit.
We moved here in 2007. We have been out walking by the estuary Nature Reserve about fifteen miles away and seen flocks of geese flying in from the direction of the sea to the breeding grounds on the other side of the embankment. They came in swathes of vast numbers, and as one flock disappeared over the bank, so another appeared in the distance to follow. I had never seen so many, not even in the park at home all those years ago.
Greylag geese have nesting sites on the banks close to us, and we often see them with their goslings around this time of year. Last year, we were amused to see an adult leading a family of 12 goslings down the path running alongside the busy road here. Bringing up the rear was the other adult, and it reminded me so much of the infant ‘crocodiles’ of my First School days as teachers led us small children, in twos and holding hands, from the school grounds to wherever we were going for our nature lesson.
There is a nesting ground in another Nature Reserve on our way to the woods. We have seen adult birds with their young crossing the road, and have slowed down to ensure their safety, even putting on our 4-way hazard lights to warn other motorists of their presence. We once saw a massive swan in the middle of the road not sure which direction to go in, so we stopped the traffic altogether!
On the 10th of January 2014, at 8.45 am, we heard geese as they flew over our house. We looked out of the window, and could not believe how many. The first flock must have had about a hundred in it. Shortly afterwards, a second passed over us, almost as big as the first. There were some stragglers a few minutes later (we voiced an imaginary argument between them about taking the wrong turn, having the map upside down, the GPS not being switched on, etc) but then another flock, larger than either of the others, also passed overhead, and we could still make out the 2 previous flocks in the distance. We think by their numbers they were probably Canada Geese, but have never known them to fly directly over our house before. It was truly a phenomenal sight.
One of my favourite films is Fly Away Home from 1996. I still cry when Amy comes over that hill to the bird sanctuary site in her glider style aircraft with the geese behind her. Whether it’s the success of the trip or the incidental music, I couldn’t say, but I’m reaching for the tissues as Hubby chuckles in the armchair opposite, hoping I won’t notice that his eyes have leaked a tear or two as well. We wore our VHS copy out so I’m glad I was able to get it on DVD. There are a lot of extras on it which includes not only how they made the film, but the science behind bird imprinting. It’s fascinating stuff for unprofessional ‘twitchers’ like me.