Friday, September 17, 2021
HomeNewsNotes from the Sticks: Honk if you’re a good parent

Notes from the Sticks: Honk if you’re a good parent

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I THINK I may be in a minority by liking Canada geese (Branta canadensis). I am sure if there were fewer of them they would be a lot more popular. Certainly they can make a mess, and a large number may be somewhat intimidating, but on the whole they are amenable and I always love seeing them flying. 

As the name implies they come from Canada. A few were brought to this country in 1676 to join King James II’s waterfowl collection in St James’s Park. They obviously found the country very much to their taste and have increased steadily ever since. Now there are estimated to be about 62,000 breeding pairs, augmented by 60,000 or so winter visitors. 

One reason for their success must be their parenting skills. Last week a friend told me she had seen two pairs with their amalgamated broods on the Ribble, and this week I saw them myself. It’s not a brilliant picture but you get the idea. 

It would take a brave predator (possibly a dog, fox or bird of prey) to tackle four large angry geese. These adults have nothing on the pair in this video, however – I think there are 23 goslings here and if the books are right that a typical clutch is five to seven eggs, that is probably four or five separate broods. I presume the other parents are taking it easy somewhere. 

In this video there must be at least 50 goslings of various sizes. I am impressed by the patience of the drivers being held up as the birds take their time crossing the road.

The British Trust for Ornithology notes on its website that Canada geese are ‘reputedly amongst the most inedible of birds’, but there are loads of recipes on the internet. This reminds me of a recipe I heard in Florida where there are abundant fish called tarpon which can be several feet long, but are very bony. 

You need an open pit the length of the tarpon with plenty of red-hot coal or charcoal, and a plank big enough for the fish. Season the plank with olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika to taste, making sure to coat it all evenly. Place the tarpon on the plank and wrap the whole lot in foil. Place it on the coals and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, throw the fish in the bin and eat the plank. 

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Last week I wrote about deer and their increasing numbers. A correspondent from the Isle of Lewis wrote:

‘The real problem for the red deer in Scotland has been the rapid decline, to the point of extinction, of their main predator, the Lesser Spotted Upper Class Toff. They used to come up all through the winter for the stalking which employed various keepers and ghillies who were expected to carry a full-grown stag on their back down the mountain. But their children see that kind of activity as dirty, wet and unpleasant. They prefer to spend their time clubbing, slamming car doors and drawling in London.

‘The result is that, in winter, the drive from Ullapool towards Inverness features hundreds and hundreds of starving deer right by the fence hoping to be fed. On this island they are down in people’s gardens every night. Our local crofter keeps cattle in the fields in the winter as deer like sheep but avoid cattle.’

It is a difficult problem but it is hard to see the reintroduction of wolves as the solution, though this is the trendy policy. My guess is that those who think ‘re-wilding’ is a good idea are Leftie town-dwellers, who will not have to live with the consequences. Some time soon I will write about the red kite which was reintroduced in the Chilterns and is now a pest in some areas. 

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At last temperatures here have scraped into double figures and the wild flowers are taking off. The ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata) is the most unspectacular of plants, but when you look closely the flowers are delicate and charming.  

The stamens trembled in the breeze: I took a short video. 

It’s not just the showstoppers that are worth attention.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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