Tag Archives: Greylag Goose

Road to Recovery

I’ve been stretching and exercising and generally paying attention to my legs, which has improved things greatly. . I am now able to walk more or less painlessly and only need the stick for balance. At that point it seemed like a good idea to take a trip to the park and walk round the duckpond.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?

We got off to a bad start when my poor, stiff legs refused to cooperate, and only just made it to the first bench. Julia went for tea, biscuits and duck food while I sat and watched wildlife. Things are starting to happen in the park, with lots of leaves breaking out and a plenty of birdsong. I managed to miss photographs of all the singers. The best I could do were various blobs lurking, out of focus, behind twigs. A Long-tailed Tit spent a good ten minutes doing this. I can only assume there is some evolutionary benefit to annoying photographers.

Alternatively, bearing in mind the possibility that birds sing simply because they enjoy it, maybe Long-tailed Tits just enjoy winding me up.

There are at least six pairs of Greylag Geese on the pond, though it’s difficult to tell as they lurk behind the island. There are also six Red Crested Pochard – two pairs and two single males. The only nests we can see so far are two Coot nests.

The Odd Couple are still hanging about, but I don’t hold out much hope of breeding success.

Eventually, having taken tea and biscuits and tutted at the antics of various hellish toddlers, we set off and completed the circuit. I did need a bit of assistance from the stick in the last few yards.

Four hundred yards round a duck pond is hardly an expedition, but it’s a start.

 

The Odd Couple and Strange Pigeons

We went to the park today to see the ducks. The first thing I saw was a Wood Pigeon in a tree and a charm of Goldfinches drinking from the stream which acts as an overflow for the pond. The pigeon looked a little rumpled and the Goldfinches were too quick for me, so there are no photographs of those two.

We were surrounded by feral pigeons at one point. I counted them twice, getting 57 in one count and 62 in the next. Call it 60. That’s a lot of verminous skyrats. It may be that I’m being unfair to them, as they do look quite tidy, and even seem keen on taking a bath.

The odd couple are still there, though the goose does seem to be paired up with another goose too. The three of them were together on the grass at the far end of the pond. It now looks a bit like one of those situations where a man has married but still has one of his old mates hanging round, or playing gooseberry.

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The birds seem to be paired up and defending territories, but apart from daffodils and a few mahonias there is nothing much happening to suggest Spring. Outside the walls Spring is definitely here but inside the park things are a bit behind. It may be the trees, or the stone wall holding cold air in, but it just seems like the park is a couple of weeks behind the surrounding streets.

 

Attacked by a swan

As the title suggests, I was attacked by a swan today. To add insult to injury, it wasn’t even a rare type of swan, just an ordinary, and innaccurately-named Mute Swan. In attack mode they can be quite vocal, with a range of hisses and low growling sounds. It doesn’t have the same blood-curdling effect of a snarling pitbull, but it is still a little off-putting, and definitely not mute.

Over the years I’ve often read that a single blow from the wing of an enraged swan can break a man’s thigh, but I’m doubtful. A quick search of the internet seems to support me.  However, none of the people discussing the damage a swan can do seems to know much about catching turkeys.

Each year we eat about 1.3 million turkeys in the UK. That means that 1,300,000 turkeys have to be caught, loaded onto lorries and moved to a processing plant. Although they now have mechanical help, in my day they were all caught by hand. Many of the experienced catchers wore cricket boxes to preserve themselves from injury. Think of frantically flapping wings meeting delicate parts of the anatomy, and things will become clear.

A swan is pretty much the same size as a big turkey. If I say that my leg wasn’t the first thing that I was worried about,Ii trust you will apprecuate my problem.

It started by getting aggressive with Julia, who was putting food down to attract photographic subjects. I  diverted it at that point by standing between the two of them and throwing some food about. That worked until it got bored and started trying to eat my trousers.

Swans are about 28 pounds and tall enough to come just past my waist. In truth it shouldn’t be a problem. I should be able to best it in single combat, but beating up a swan in a nature reserve doesn’t seem right. Swans in open water are owned by the Queen – I’m not sure what the exact legal position is, and whether self-defence is seen as a good excuse. Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 the maximum punishment is £5,000 or 6 months in jail. If, on the other hand, it counts as treason due to royal ownership, I might end up in the Tower of London.

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Mute Swan at Rufford Park

Fortunately it didn’t come to that. After a bit of trouser tugging and hissing from the swan and some grumbling from me, I used a handful of food to cover a strategic withdrawal.

It should have ended at that point, but a one-legged Greylag goose hopped up to the food and the swan grabbed it round the neck.

It was a dilemma – help the underdog or let the swan get away with it?

The goose was about half the size of the swan, has a leg that is permanantly tucked up to its body and has a damaged wing. It clearly needed help. On the other hand, I didn’t want to be incarcerated in the Tower of London.

I offered my trousers again, but got no reaction.

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Mute Swan attacking Greylag goose

In the end, after a certain amount of shouting and posturing, we distracted the swan and fed it again as the goose scurried away.

It seems a bit unfair that the swan gets extra food for bad behaviour, but that’s how it goes.