egyptian goose with goslings

The giant alien thistle still towers above the west side of Lockwood. Its infestation of aphids now seems under control following the intervention of the local ladybirds and their voracious offspring. They have no care that the plant is foreign and unfamiliar; it is just an interesting landscape on which to enjoy the hunt. Its giant flower buds are still to open. I can’t wait!

The sun is back and, combined with this giant plant, gives the day a mediterranean feel. The familiar british birds, save for a subdued robin and an intermittent chiffchaff, are silent. A few linnet which, all told, feel continental in spirit, decorate the air with their music-box chatter. A tern flies by with a tiny fish in its mouth — where do they find them?

Up at the top end of the reservoir the breeze strengthens by virtue of its exposed location next to a wide expanse of frictionles water. The closest thing locally to a coastal headland. Pied wagtails continue their frolicking in its uplift.

This is summer.

Another day, another goose.

Today it’s Egyptian Geese, those missing links between ducks and true geese, stranded on our island after some not quite great escapes from the stately homes that imported them. They waddle mechanically about the reserve, like little girls in their mothers’ too-high heels, not quite managing to pull off a catwalk poise. They totter on their stout pink legs in a posture redolent of Donald Trump leering over the lectern. Their heads are shaped somewhere between sock-puppets and golf clubs with a smudge of sienna eyeshadow around their monster yellow eyes, and a trashy pink beak Dolly Parton would be proud of.

Frankenstein’s goose.

Trailer trash goose.

The goose from the black lagoon.

What they lack in elegance they make up for in personality. From early spring they’re heard before they’re seen, barking threats at intruding rivals as they chase them through the air with white wing panels flashing. Earlier this month an altercation between two males saw a young lad comment to his sister — in that macho, destructive way they do — that it was a “fight to the death”, and it’s easy to believe that could be true. Nesting in trees — not as unusual for ducks and geese as you might think —, they are concentrated toward the south end of the reserve, with its wooded islands, and competition for the best territories must be intense.

But today I came across a new family of 10 black and white goslings right at the north of Lockwood, where there are barely any trees, and those there are are mostly fairly tall. Who knows what heights they jumped from to make their way to their first paddle. What a beginning to a life; out of the egg and into a tree hole, plummeting to the ground then up a grassy slope — whose blades would dwarf these miniscule creatures — followed by a final short jump down into a concrete basin.

Which is where I found them, escorted by their calmly protective parents — no histrionic squaring off at the threat in the shorts — along the mud and slime covered strandline. Fairly self-sufficient despite their youth, they picked tiny, indiscernable snacks from the ground. Two in particular were so bold as to run well ahead, racing each other to peck at the choicest morsels, and then dashing back to the fold when they realised how far out in no-goose-land they’d strayed.

Their parents began to coax them into the water, so I left them to continue their bulking up in peace. Walking back along the Maynards causeway I found a male shoveler in its non-breeding eclipse plumage, looking like a squashed mallard. Though a far rarer sight, and the obvious choice to write about, the feral egyptian geese have earned their place today. As if to confirm my choice, near the bike stands another teenage goose dunked its head in the weir, causing a bowl of laminar flowing water to rise up and dress it like a ballerina.

Ever the freak, ever the dreamer.

You’re such a beautiful freak
I wish there were more just like you
You’re not like
All of the others

— Eels