Something very strange happened the other weekend. Having just finished cleaning the ferret room, we were getting ready to go outside to see to the chickens, when my husband called for me to get my camera. Having photographed most of the wildlife that visits the garden, I couldn’t understand the urgency in his voice. I already had some good pictures of the deer and badgers. A very friendly pheasant paused for a portrait while we were trimming the trees recently and only the other day a passing pair of partridge came close enough for a good shot. I got the green woodpecker playing in the snow one winter and I’m gradually working my way through a list of smaller birds. The greater spotted woodpecker remains elusive, but as he never comes anywhere near the house, I knew it couldn’t be him. So what was it that required my attention and more to the point, would it be big enough to photograph?
I needn’t have worried. As I moved closer to the dining room window and peered outside, there on the lawn were two adult Greylag geese with five fluffy chicks! The ancestor of most domestic geese, the Greylag is the largest and bulkiest of the wild geese native to the UK. Living in an area with many lakes, we are used to large flocks of Canada geese flying over, but this was something new. I managed to get a few shots through a not-so-clean window (courtesy of the kittens), but I was thrilled with the results. Zooming in to one of the images, I could clearly count all the goslings. I had no idea of what was to come.
Then we remembered that Merlin cat was still outside. I didn’t think he was a threat to the little ones, but I didn’t want him hurt by a protective parent. We decided to call him in quietly and through a partially open back door, he was happy to oblige. Then I had the idea that if I could sneak outside very carefully, I might get one more photograph without the glass. I got one… and then another and as the geese seemed unruffled, I crossed the path and stepped on to the lawn. Over the next few minutes, this is how things progressed. It seemed pointless to pretend I didn’t exist, so instead I kept up a conversation with the geese, telling them what a wonderful family they had. Eventually I was less than three feet away and able to get down to take some close-ups of the babies. I didn’t realise it at the time, but my husband was watching from the door, fully expecting me to be attacked at any moment, but it never happened.
Looking at the time stamp on the images, I can see that the entire session lasted nearly 25 minutes. I still can’t quite believe my luck in getting so close and having plenty of time to observe and take my photographs. The truth is that if I didn’t have them now, then I would be inclined to think it had all been a dream. The geese eventually wandered off with the little ones in tow and we haven’t seen them again.