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Winter Visitors Or Just Neighbours?

2nd of December 2008

The dull damp mornings of the last week of October and the first week of November have been brightened by the noisy arrival of skeins of geese flying out on to the stubble to graze. As Ted, our dog, and I take our first walk of the day, V formations come over head honking, seemingly with delight, as they arrive on patches where shed or spilled barley grains have germinated and produced thick juicy shoots. In the dull early light I was not certain what sort they were, so leaving a little later one morning I took my binoculars and strode out across the footpath towards Felden for a better look. A pigeon hide had been made out of straw bales in just about the right spot so I cut across to that. The geese had long dark necks and although most were grazing some were always on the look out and my approach had made them nervous. From the hide and using the binoculars I could see that they were Canada Geese. They have very distinctive long black necks and heads with a white chin patch. They looked like a wild flock, not the ones that beg for bread in the Water Gardens at Hemel Hempstead. I thought perhaps they had migrated here from somewhere colder.
Over breakfast I looked through the bird books to see where they might have come from only to discover that the British geese all come from birds brought to the county in the 17th century as decorative birds for parkland lakes and that they do not migrate. I checked this out on the internet and the RSPB gave the same figure for summer and winter birds. So where do these birds come from? They always come from the direction of Kings Langley and arrive in 3 or 4 groups making around 50 birds in total. Are there 50 Canada Geese on the old gravel pits at Kings Langley? If any one has any ideas I would love to hear from them as I felt sure these birds had come from a wilder place where they had little contact with people.
A few years ago a farmer friend had hundreds turn up on a field of wheat and some had to be shot to save the crop and move the birds on. As I do not like waste I begged one for the pot. It took me an age to pluck and get rid of the down, but it looked quite good. I took a great deal of trouble over the cooking; this was to be a feast! Oh boy was it tough and dry! I will not be using the hide in the field to bag another one thats for sure!
Wendy Bathurst

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