RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Majestic patterns against the sky


Let’s have a last look at the Brent geese before they set off once more on their travels to the Baltic and on into the Russian arctic.

They should start back in a month, but sooner if the weather is mild.

They dawdle along that route, passing St. Petersburgh as they go, after hanging about in the Danish marshes. I’ve had some super views of these little black geese all winter on the Fishbourne channel. They’ve been feeding on a farmer’s cereal crops some of the time, then flighting back to the channel to get a drink of fresh spring water that erupts in places under the reed-beds and flows on down channel past Dell Quay.

What majestic patterns they make against the sky.

The skeins look like music notation: a great symphony imprinted on the clouds, to be trawled on the memory stick whenever one feels in need of an uplift from much of the foolish and inadequate behaviour of the human race behaving badly all over the globe.

Chichester and Pagham harbour’s Brent geese are a conservation success story over the past 50 years, set brilliantly against so much damage to migratory species from Africa such as Cuckoo and Turtle dove.

My close-up picture was taken from the car as I was driving to West Wittering car-park to see the geese there.

They graze the grass all winter and get it ready for the cars of the tourist trade in summer when people flock there just as Brents do in winter: the sort of clever symbiotic relationship between humans and nature which sometimes works here and there in Africa and the Antarctic among many places on the planet. Even President Trump must surely see the need for wildlife conservation as human benefit, even though he wants to develop oil fields in Alaska just as Putin does in his arctic regions.

Meanwhile we enjoy Russian geese in winter while the southern USA also enjoy their Branta species such as Snow geese and Brent geese of the Pale-breasted sub species. Let us hope this continues courtesy of the oligarchs. What power they have even though they know so little of the natural world.

Have a look at my close-up picture and you will see the ‘parson’s dog collars’ of the three geese. This shows them to be old birds; at least 18 months of age and anything up to 20. Youngsters of the year, like those in the Bosham creek crèche, hardly have any white marks on their necks.

Let’s hope the juveniles of this year will still travel to Sussex when they reach twenty years of age.