A pair of Canadian geese settle on Mindy Hammond’s pond, putting other residents in a flap

Perhaps it’s because the world is a little quieter or maybe the weather is especially mild, but there’s certainly something in the wind (and for once it isn’t the whiff of chicken manure being spread on a neighbouring field). The first swifts have returned to the stables, checking what construction work is needed on the remnants of last year’s nests, the songbirds are singing their heads off every morning, the jackdaws are back in the keep and a rabbit has made the mouth of her burrow in the roots of the tree next to our front gate. Yes, spring is definitely here and along with our annual population of mallards we have some surprising visitors to our big pond.

The first time I saw them, back in March, I assumed they were just stopping for a rest before continuing to their final destination. But two months on it’s clear they’re here to stay and have made themselves very comfortable.

They are a pair of Canada geese and although we have briefly played host to small flocks on a “stopover” in the past, Patsy and Eddie, as I’ve christened them, arrived on their own. They inspected the area, approved, and after many days of careful preparation, built their first nest.

At least, I hope it was their first… Only an amateur would site the nursery in reeds on the bank of the pond and so visible the fox trotted over and stole all four of their precious eggs without even getting his feet wet.

I can’t help but think they’re semi-domesticated and perhaps were bought to live on a pond but, like many waterfowl, turned their backs on the hand that fed them and are living wild and free instead. They don’t seem overly worried by the dogs and spend much of their day keeping Finn company in his paddock or wandering around the fields. Sometimes, for a change of scenery, they nip over to the moat and sit on the island.

Patsy seems keen to bring up her family there but whenever she sits in state on her half-finished nest (no doubt trying to convince her husband this is a far safer environment for the kids), Eddie drifts about in the bulrushes with his neck stretched out on the surface of the pond, as if moaning, “Woe is me… Oh, the depression I feel… I can’t bear it.” And I guarantee, before the day is out they’re back on the big pond with Eddie, head held high, marching through the marshes.

The geese didn’t welcome the arrival of the mallards. In fact they looked at our regular residents with a fair bit of confusion and there followed a bit of a stand-off. If the geese were on the pond, the mallards were in the grass and vice versa. It took several days before a truce was called and even now there is an invisible line across the water with ducks one side and geese the other.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, we had yet more new arrivals. At first, I feared they were moorhens (well, I didn’t have my specs on). They were both very dark in colour – and was it the sun shining on one of them that made its wing look white?

On my second dog walk of the day I took a longer look and realised one was dark and the other actually was black and white. I consulted the internet – we have a pair of tufted ducks. Now I’m starting to wonder whether they followed the geese, because although Patsy and Eddie seem
to go to great lengths to avoid coming within quacking distance of the mallards, they absolutely love Mr and Mrs Tufty.

I’ve never seen wild ducks do this before, but our little band of waterfowl makes a daily trip to the muckheap for a forage and hardly moves when I tip a new load on to the pile.

This only began after I emptied the dirty bedding from the chicken houses, so perhaps they have a taste for corn and are staying here hoping one day the stupid woman they watch feeding those hens, that turkey and that very lucky duck will decide to feed them, too.

Sorry guys, it’s never going to happen.

You’re very lucky to be wild, free and independent, although you made your nest and couldn’t lie in it. So finish what you started on the island, where eggs can incubate safely and foxes fear to tread.

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