Tuesday, 19 October 2010

His Goose was cooked!

Some fifteen years ago I was involved with a bird ringing group. It was all legal and above board. We would deploy mist nets and ring, weigh, measure and record whatever we caught. The vast majority of our ringing was done with the chicks in the nest boxes scattered round the nature reserve site.

From time to time we would look at ringing mature birds. There was a big lake near to the sanctury where people would go every day and feed the ducks and geese. We would go down and catch the odd goose or swan. The problem with the large birds is that you have to time your capture carefully if you want to catch more than one at a time. Once you grab a bird the others quickly scatter across the lake and it takes a few days for them to settle again.

The favoured place had a ramp down into the water, where trailer boats could be launched. it was late in the afternoon and we were on the ramp eyeing up the birds to identify the ring numbers that we could see. At the same time it gives us a chance to see which birds were not ringed. What we would do was feed the birds a bit of bread and then scatter some bread on the ramp. This would draw the birds out of the water. Making it easy to read the rings and after recording what we could see. We could then make a lunge and capture a couple of un-ringed birds.

Dave was the head ringer and reserve warden. Myself and John were giving some assistance with the recording of ring data. When we decided that it was almost time to go, we hatched our "Baldrick" like cunning plan to capture a couple of geese.  We would stand around on the ramp trying to isolate a bird each by getting between it and the water. We co-ordinated our efforts by whispering to let each other know when we were ready. John, was having problems with his target bird. When the "go go go" was given John was facing the water.

Dave and myself had missed our targets. John however had managed to grab his bird in about two feet of water. Suddenly out of nowhere came this "old lady", and charged up ready to defend the geese from these bullys. She bounced off the middle of John's back. He staggerd forward, went off the edge of the ramp. The goose escaped and all that could be seen was Johns Bretton hat floating in the water. a few seconds later he surfaced spitting and coughing. His bald pate on display (we never knew he wore a wig). At the same time the old dear went for him again. She was soon up to her knees in the water and shouting obcenties and threatening to tear him limb from limb.

It was a Mexican stand off, John could not get out of the water and she could not get in far enough to get to him. Myself and Dave the warden were rolling about laughing. She thought we were laughing at her and turned her ire on us. This gave John chance to make good his escape. This story is almost bird ringing folk lore and a few years later the story was re-told at John's funeral. the story helped to change the mood from sombre, to a celebration of his life.


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