Thursday, 22 March 2007

Spring Fever…

Spring arrived on the 20th without much fanfare. Most of us, in this ‘neck of the woods’, were distracted by winter, busy stomping its feet and shaking its fists in a last ditch attempt to capture the limelight. We certainly had a display, snow clad mountains, biting wind and plummeting temperatures emulating January most effectively. A few days on and almost all the snow has melted away. The windblown, broken daffodils are now inside, lighting up the old oak table with springtime cheerfulness.


I have been rewarded every day with wonderful views and fabulous air, for the small price of being brave and going for a walk. For the first time since coming here to the edge of the loch, I have smelt the sea, that sharp salty tang unique to the seaside. The air is so fresh and cold that it almost hurts to breath until you have stood still and given your lungs a chance to acclimatise after the cosy warmth inside. I enjoy it while I can, soft spring breezes will soon replace it.

Walking northward into the wind along the loch yesterday, I saw three geese in the corner of an empty pasture. They were too far off to take a picture, maybe 600 yards or more against a dark background, but I was able to determine the basic markings, even from that distance. I had no idea what type of geese they might be but I carefully noted all the distinguishing features that I could see. When I turned to walk back, I was treated to the sight of the southern hills and mountains covered with a dazzling coat of snow. For a short while that morning, in between and even during brilliant sunshine, large fat fluffy snowflakes were falling; the snow would melt as soon as it hit the ground, but it was lovely while it lasted.

When I got back to the house, I went straight to the Internet to see if I could find out what geese I had seen. I wouldn’t say that M or I would ever qualify as “twitchers”, those dedicated and informed people who have a passion for bird watching. Mostly our interest comes from simple curiosity about the creatures that share the neighbourhood. But since arriving in the UK, we are caught almost completely flat-footed when it comes to any general wildlife knowledge. It’s a frustrating situation, having been able to identify most birds, animals and insects for the last twenty years or so, and one we are working on rectifying as soon as we can. To this end the Internet is invaluable.

After some research, I am fairly certain that the birds were Canada Geese, a large, long-necked goose with a distinctive black head. There were three of them, two adults and a juvenile and when travelling, they tend to stay in family groups. Canada Geese were first brought to Britain in the late 1600’s to add to the collection of waterfowl kept by King James II in St James’s Park and have since established feral populations in Scandinavia, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. They are common and not endangered and have successfully spread to cover most of the United Kingdom. According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a Canada goose can live up to twenty-three years!

Canada Geese in New York State

Walking by the pasture today, I saw that the visitors had moved on…obviously making the pilgrimage to where geese go every year to mate and nest and multiply.
Spring Fever!


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