A dangerous freedom

According to the RSPB site the geese arriving here in the north west of Scotland in the spring of every year are probably greylags. I had thought them to be the pink footed variety but the book says no, pink lags are not to be found up here. Whatever, they breed here close to the sea loch. Not in the numbers this year as previous but they do nest. In past times we have seen pairs with up to twelve new-hatched chicks tumbling down over the bouldery foreshore to reach the briny ahead of our approach.

This year however there have not been many adults at all, so the few we've seen with their offspring have been even more exciting, if a little disturbing. Why disturbing? Because the first family we came across a week ago on our daily lochside walk included but one solitary fluffball and a day or two later the second family we encountered had only a couple of little ones. But yesterday things were looking up. Family one with the single and family two with the double had been enjoined by family three, who had five of the tiniest, obviously new-hatched greylags.

All three families hurried down to the sea, the chicks tumbling head over heels across rocks and weeds that must to them have seemed like mountains and forests. Then away paddled the flotilla, always at the speed of the slowest (tiniest). Now, according to the book these three families ought to have included at least thirty babes, rather than the combined total of eight in evidence. What had been happening? Sheep treading on the nests/eggs? Hooded crows' or buzzard's predatory activities? Insecticide poisoning? Shotguns? Who knows

In a couple of months, should they have survived that long we will see the grown up teenagers practicing their take-offs and landings and their in-flight skills. And as the days shorten, the skies darken and the temperatures plummet off they will go on their thousand miles trip to Greenland. We wish them luck. We wish them safe passage and a safe return to Loch Eweside. In a strange way we envy them their freedom. But not their endangerment.


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