Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Tales of the Neighbours

There is a big pond just up the hill from me. There are brown trout in it, and in the spring, hundreds of thousands of tadpoles. The dragonfly season is nearly over, but the daddy long legs season is just kicking off. The swallows love the pond and swoop over drinking on the wing in the still of the evening. I like to go up there before supper, with the loyal hound. He jumps around like a crazy thing on springs looking for mice. This involves him shoving his nose into every likely looking hole in the ground or tempting tuft of grass and snorting down it, before possibly tearing said patch of ground up with his teeth and flinging grass and soil everywhere. He's actually a useless mouse catcher. I have once seen him do his 'tuft ripping' exercise and fling a nest of mice around himself without actually noticing them all scrabbling for safety.

Every March, like clockwork, a pair of Canada Geese (named Mack and Mabel if you are interested) come and make their nest on the small island in the centre of the pond. For 4 weeks they take turns sitting on the nest, and paddling round the island to guard from intruders. Finally, the goslings hatch. Usually 5 of them, they are balls of dark brown and egg yellow fluff which follow their parents intrepidly wherever they go. They trip over the grass, fall into the water off a steep bank and have no concept of their own vulnerability. That's probably why only two or three of them survive the summer.

Mack and Mabel are good parents. In fact, if they were people, they would sum up the nanny state. The goslings never leave their parents geese eyes (seemed odd to say eagle eye about a goose). Every morning and evening, without fail, Mack parades along the edge of the pond, where the ground drops away and he gets a view of the entire valley, and any approaching danger, whilst Mabel shepherds her flock of fluff balls onto the water. They then spend the day foraging, gossiping and bickering with the occasional duck who foolishly thinks they might be able to share the pond for an hour or so.

By July they are ready to fly and the noise as they finally take off for the first time is astonishing. They shout with a combination of joy and fear that they are finally flying. For a week, they practice, using the roof of my hobbit house as a marker point on their practice runs. All during this time they call to each other with loud cackles. "look at me, I'm flying / diving / crashing / spinning/ loop the looping." Each night the wheel of their journey increases until they are traversing the whole valley, going ever higher and higher. When they come back to the pond they land with a great splash and crash, cackling with glee and then instantly swimming along as if they haven't just somersaulted onto the water, but are in fact sophisticated and stately birds who would never be caught clowning around. Last week, they left for the year. I expect the terrible weather made them think it was autumn already, rather than the supposed height of summer. If I could fly, I would have gone with them.....


Bevchen said...

I love this: "whilst Mabel shepherds her flock of fluff balls onto the water." Such a cute image.

And I hate, hate, hate daddy longlegs. As far as I'm concerned, the dragon flies could stay all year round.

Welsh Girl said...

So, your worst nightmare would be moths - or daddy long legs???? I'm detectng a phobia here....

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