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Friday 13 February 2009

Goosey Goosey Gander.....

(Photo from web of Greylag Goose)

For several days now I've had a lone greylag goose in my field behind the house. I've named him "Bill" in memory of a pet goose I had when I was five. Bill II seems quite happy in the field, eating grass and grubs or whatever geese eat, and he has his very own pond plus the company of lapwings, oystercatchers, curlews and various field birds. But I have no idea why s/he is alone. I'm hoping once Spring comes Bill will fly North and join other flocks of geese. Although I wouldn't mind another pet goose!

When I was five I won a raffle at a local fete. The first prize was a goose, and my dad, who bought the ticket, was expecting a dead, plucked and dressed goose to arrive on the doorstep. Um... so it was a shock to my parents and a delight to me to find a LIVE one turning up. I named him Bill after my best friend at the time. Bill (the goose) lived in the shed in the garden and I led him round the garden on the dog lead. Dad built a pen for him, but Bill clearly had other ideas and kept escaping to the allotments behind the house which meant Dad and brother, Pete, had to keep chasing the goose, providing many hours of entertainment for the neighbours.

However the day came when it was decided by my parents that Bill had to go. So a local neighbour who was a butcher came and "did the deed" while I was at school. I was really sad to see Bill go. However completely unknown to me, Mum served up "Bill" for Sunday lunch. To this day my sister reminds me that I ate my friend Bill the goose! In my defence I didn't know! And I did keep the pillow stuffed with his goose down feathers for many years afterwards. AND I've never forgotten him. Anyway I'd better reassure Bill II that he is not destined for the same fate (fete?!).......

Fortunately Bill is too big ( even if he may be injured) to fall prey to the local cat population, of which Button is one. I found the remains of a dead lapwing in one of the barns, so I don't know if that was Button, Charlie Boy or one of the other many Graemsay cats. Sigh. I am rather worried about the wild bird chick population this summer.

Well I am just off to Stromness. Haven't been able to escape the house for a whole week but most of the snow has disappeared on Graemsay and so I shall venture forth to buy more provisions (in case of further snow) and to meet up with friends for lunch. I am already hallucinating about a cafe latte and wondering what else is on the menu!


  1. Strange there should be a goose by itself. There are about 100 on the field below the house here in Westray.

    Word ver: stroma

  2. I wondered if it was doing a recce on behalf of the thousands of other geese and tomorrow I shall be wall-to-wall geese? Or maybe it's taken some "time-out" from the flock to "find itself", or maybe it's going through a mid-life crisis? It may be sick or have wing damage which is why it hasn't left the field. Then again - it's found de-luxe accommodation which maybe it doesn't want to share with anyone else.....

  3. Great story about Bill #1, Sian. I'm glad you didn't know at the time that you were consuming a friend.

    Did you hear about the airliner that was brought down over New York and landed safely in the Hudson River with all 155 passengers surviving? It was brought down by a flock of Canada geese. Better that geese should live on Graemsay where there's no airport. Better for travelers and for geese, too.

  4. Yes saw all the dramatic footage of the NY plane landing in the Hudson and subsequent awards, interviews etc. At least in Orkney we don't have any jet planes, just propellor versions! Ironically airports often act as nature reserves due to the absence of people, and I know birds can cause all sorts of problems for jet aircraft - shudder.

  5. When we visited Orkney last Easter I was amazed at the number of geese in the fields; we have always visited in summer before. Did I read this week that there are plans to support the farmers who are affected? Your lone goose should be no problem, Sian! Our snow is slowly melting though the packed snow/ice is still treacherous in places. Your photos were wonderful - should have told you before how much pleasure they gave me. Stay warm & cosy!
    PS Have saved some of the lemon verbena leaves to dry for tea.

  6. Jo - yes you're right Scottish Natural Heritage are conducting a feasibility study to look at measures to scare geese off newly seeded land etc. One farmer in East Orkney Mainland counded 1,700 geese on one of his fields this week! Normally he gets about 800. So, no, one lone goose won't be a problem. I just feel sorry for him/her! Glad you liked the photos. Lemon verbena tea - hmm haven't tried that one!