Nature Notes - Hello Mr Goose

THE free and mighty goose, a life in the wilds and wilderness of the far north.

We have seen our first noisy skeins of Pink Footed Geese flying high over the cottage as they start to arrive from their breeding grounds in Iceland and eastern Greenland.

With the arrival of this advanced guard we decided to head for Martin Mere this weekend as over four and a half thousand had already dropped in there!

Pink feet are a smallish goose with a small stubby bill and rounded head giving them quite a distinctive friendly sort of profile.

They are pinkish grey with a dark head and neck, a pink bill and pink feet and legs hence their name.

They breed in between the snow topped clumps of grass in May and use the same nest sites for years – some have been used for over forty years.

They like to nest together sometimes only a few yards away from their neighbours – safety in numbers sort of thing I guess. Pink feet always bring back memories of pitch-black mornings, cold frosts as we headed to the estuary, miles of trudging to get settled before dawn began to break.

Then cups of piping hot soup and a chance to thaw snuggled up against the freezing wind before the geese took off to forage over the potato and carrot fields.

Then the long tramp back to the car to scrape the frost off the windscreen before the journey home. Those were the days!!!!

It’s much easier these days – just pop over to Martin Mere and watch in warmth and comfort as tens of thousands fly in every evening. What a sight. We were also treated to some other fabulous sights while there this weekend.

The first being a red kite then a peregrine falcon, a kingfisher actually catching fish and finally a little stint (a tiny wading bird that had dropped in on its way to Africa).

It’s the time of year when we put out the bird feeders.

This year from the 1st of January Tanith is going to keep a species list to see how many birds visit our garden during a year.

Both the RSPB and BTO now recommend all year feeding providing that you follow some dietary changes.

During the spring and summer (if we ever get any ever again!!!) don’t feed peanuts, large chunks of bread or fat as these items could choke chicks,

if you are using peanuts make sure you put them in a mesh feeder so that they can’t be taken whole, or crush them to leave on a bird table.

Sunflower seeds are fast replacing the peanut in popularity for feeding garden birds as they seem to attract a wider range of species and are safe for all year round feeding.

Did you know…………

To survive winter, small birds such as blue tits and wrens must eat a quarter of their body weight in food each day.

Putting food out for the birds in winter probably saves the lives of up to a million garden birds a year.