Thursday, 23 February 2012

Wild goose story No 2

There was a platoon of soldiers dressed in gunmetal-grey uniforms marching across the field on the other side of the river the other day. They goose-stepped over the grass in serried ranks, all facing the same way, all hunching their striped shoulders against the squally, stinging rain.

The pink-footed geese have arrived - there were over 100 of them on Tuesday - grazing in a tight pack on the muddy, just-growing sheep pasture. They arrive here every year at about this time - a couple of weeks after the first oystercatchers. They only come to the grass once they've exhausted the stubble fields - their dining rooms of choice when they arrive in autumn. Though pink-foots roost a few miles north of here I can't be sure these are the same birds. They may be geese starting to make their way back north from wintering grounds in England.  Either way they're yet another tick on my 'things that make it spring' list.

Talking of which ... oystercatcher numbers are building fast. While we were away my friend texted me to say there were 10 (he knows I'm obsessed) - up from the two I had last seen. Now there are over 40. They lift and wheel around in squadrons now, scimitars of bright white wings edged with black, piping anxiously if they think you're getting too close. Once they calm down they spread out in loose covies around the field, plunging those glorious red bills deep into the soil in search of a titbit. It's a fine sight on a dreich February day.

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