Monday, 27 December 2021

Christmas is coming and the Geese are, well, everywhere

With the obvious exception of the Greylag, the other 'grey' geese - Pink-footed, White-fronted and Bean - are pretty scarce in Dorset, so after failing to see any of the three at the end of last winter, I didn't hold out much hope of adding them to the non-motorised year list. The week before Christmas changed all that though as geese starting appearing all over the place, presumably in response to colder conditions further east. 

Tundra Bean Goose
On Monday a flock of Russian White-fronts appeared at Hampreston, scene of my successful Whooper Swan twitch earlier in the month, while on Tuesday a trio of Tundra Bean Geese arrived even closer to home in Holes Bay. Fortunately both species lingered long enough for me to catch up with them, the Beans, a particularly desirable species in these parts, requiring an early start before work. 
Tundra Bean Goose
It's about seven miles to Upton Country Park where the geese had been seen, and on arrival, even in the dark I could recognise the familiar figures of Rob and James who clearly had the same idea as me to have 'Beans for breakfast'. We went to the field where the birds had been reported but it was disappointingly goose-less. Just as my deadline to return home was approaching, the Birdguides app reported that the birds were still there - but the directions pointed to the empty field we were stood next to. The mystery was soon solved though when a phone call from Phil Saunders confirmed the correct field (to the west of the one we were watching). After a short sprint and I was there to enjoy good views in the half-light.
The three Bean Geese together at Upton
I figured (correctly) that the geese might be the last additions to the non-motorised year-list before Christmas Day, by which time other priorities, like spending time with the much-neglected family, would finally take precedence after a year in which most of my spare time has been consumed with cycling around looking for birds. Unfortunately 'spending time with the family' took on a cruel twist when my wife tested positive for Covid-19 and had to spend the big day in isolation. 
Tundra Bean Goose
She remains there as I write, ordering refreshments via the 'Room service' whatsapp group set up by my eldest when he was 'pinged' and forced to isolate back in the autumn. My youngest son (who caught Covid earlier in the year) and I (who had a booster jab a week earlier than my wife) have been testing negative on a daily basis so fingers crossed it stays that way.
Tundra Bean Goose
So it's been a slightly odd festive season, preparing meals, snacks and drinks, leaving them on a tray outside the plague-room door, giving it a tap to let the inmate know that they are there, and then running away before the virus can escape the strict quarantine imposed on its reluctant host. I feel like a cross between a night porter and a beneficent cherry-knocker.
Tundra Bean Goose
As for herself, fortunately the symptoms have been very mild, consisting mainly of a new, continuous craving for Netflix and, judging by the Christmas music coming from the bedroom, a complete loss of taste. Plus she's getting five-star catering, has a cast-iron excuse not to see the in-laws and doesn't have to share a bed with me. So I suspect she's secretly delighted to the extent that I am starting to wonder just how reliable these 'positive' lateral flow tests really are...
The Hampreston White-fronted Geese were a bit more distant than the Beans!
Anyway, there is precious little left of the 2021 and I'm not sure if I will be able to add to the yearlist, so there may not be many more of these breathless posts, which I'm reliably informed are almost as exhausting to read as the journeys on which they are based were to complete. So it's looking like the year may end on 221 (220 of which have been in Dorset). 222 would be a satisfyingly memorable number to end on of course, but not even Father Christmas can guarantee that!

A view of the orange legs of the largest (male?) Tundra Bean Goose

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