For anyone interested, here is my rather bad home video of gosling’s mum and auntie when they were two weeks old, learning to swim in the bath.

To upload it to here I had to make it into a Youtube video first and then embed it.

I am mortally embarrassed about my commentary: honestly, I refuse to believe that that is what I sound like, and especially that I put on that inane, ‘baby-speak’ pitch and delivery.  But if you just turn down the volume and fade me out, the goslings are worth watching:)


Not so little gosling

Time for an update I think.

Gosling has spent a great deal of time outside in the gorgeous sunny weather we have been having this Autumn. more gosling 2014 015 I sat with the geese while s/he (must think of a name) was out with them as buzzards were still a threat.  Every day at about 11 in the morning I would hear the tell tale call from hundreds of feet above me, look up, and there it would be, circling round above the valley.

Any time gosling felt threatened s/he rushed to sit between my feet if I was sitting on a wall, or I would bend over and spread my arms out like wings and provide a safe haven that way.

more gosling 2014 016The leg ‘tent’ also provides the shade of choice when in danger of getting too much sun!

more gosling 2014 019Foraging is hard work, with dandelions and red clover being the favourite herbs of choice: along with various grasses whose names I have mostly forgotten, but there is timothy, crested dog’s tail, yorkshire fog, rye grass and couch, to name a few.  Couch is very popular.

more gosling 2014 014Sometimes I sit on a pile of compost sacks under a tree and after a while the baby often comes to climb up and sit on my knee while the adults continue to graze.

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The down is beginning to stand out all over which means that feathers are not far behind.  Feathers do not grow separately from down but grow on the same shaft, pushing out the down as they come, which gives a very comical effect.

I give it swimming lessons in the bath to strengthen its legs and to encourage preening and the development of its oil gland.These swimming practices always end with a good preen and now I am seeing lots of small pieces of down being shed each time.  When s/he hatched there was a dark patch on its head and on one side of its body so it will be interesting to see if they translate into a patchy adult goose or not.

If only I knew whether or not it is female so I could come up with a name.  The signs, according the goose book I use, suggest it is female, i.e. lots of preening of my hair and very inquisitive when sitting on my knee,rather than sitting still which is apparently a male trait.  But it is so very determined that I think it will have to be a warrior queen name if it turns out to be female.

Mum and Auntie are a devoted team and whenever they are all on the move s/he is preceded by one and succeeded by the other, Indian file.

more gosling 2014 028

more gosling 2014 030S/he has developed the most charming chatty style when wishing to interact: it sounds like bubbling water, rather like a slightly slower and deeper lark song.  This is so melodic and pretty compared to the low, almost barking, and very peremptory sounds of mum and auntie. Long may it last:)

Doing the splits

Well, little gosling got over its first problems but then a few days later I found it doing the splits.

The day before it had been lying down and stretching out a wing and the corresponding leg, very balletic, but on the floor.  It just looked very ‘chilled’ and relaxed.

The next morning it could no longer stand up: every time it tried both legs splayed out to each side.  So I hit the internet.

And discovered that it had a condition known as ‘spraddles’.  I found a blog with a post showing me photos of  how to help it overcome this problem.  At the time I did not take any photographs of our gosling and with the permission of the blogger here reproduce her photos of one of her goslings, as it was exactly how ours looked.  So the photos in this post are definitely not my copyright, they belong to http://spidersworkshop.wordpress.com and you can read all about her story here: http://spidersworkshop.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/the-goslings-got-spraddle-legs.


Now, our gosling was much worse than this one, ours could not stand at all and both legs were completely flat on the ground at right angles to its body.  If we did nothing the information I found on the web said that it would have to be culled, or killed in other words, as it would be permanently disabled and never be able to stand or walk.

The answer appeared to be to tie the gosling’s legs together, above the ankles, just sufficiently to keep them at the correct angle to its body:  accepted wisdom said that after a few days the hip joints would then be strong enough to keep the legs under the body, otherwise the hips would become dislocated for good.

On this blog I found a really helpful photo showing how to tie the legs:


and then to wrap sellotape round the middle of the tie to make ‘bracelets’ so that the feet could not slip out:


I did not have any pretty ties but used a black hair scrunchie so that it would be soft.  Some websites recommended rubber bands but I thought they looked as if they could make the legs sore.

The poor little thing did not like its bracelets at all and kept pulling at them and trying to undo the sellotape.  It still could not stand up and just sat worrying the leg straighteners so that I thought this would never work.  But after about four hours it stopped bothering with them and managed to get upright.  It could not walk properly and had to hop and shuffle but after a day it could get about alright.

However, in our case, we actually had to keep the bracelets on its legs for over two weeks before its hips were strong enough to cope, which seemed much longer than many websites recommended.

When we finally removed them it never looked back, and it is completely cured.  Now, some weeks later it still has slightly wobbly legs and likes to sit down a lot, but they work well and it can do everything it wants to do.

Apparently if the incubated chick or gosling is not warm enough in the egg to dry out before it is hatched its body weight is too heavy for its legs, hence the problem.  Now ours still had its umbilical cord hanging from its stomach which is something I have never seen before, and it took a fortnight before it fell off (which is also a sign of incorrect incubation) so I think the strange and unusual hatching had clearly had several effects on the baby bird.

I have noticed that one eye is smaller and is situated lower on its face than the other, which does not really matter, and its vision seems unaffected, but I think the quality of the egg was lowered by its very cold four week sojourn in our fridge and its lengthy incubation.  But this little gosling’s will is so strong that nothing will stand in its way.  This gosling was going to be hatched and is determined to live, despite the odds.

Busy, busy, busy.

I have to admit that since my second friend died this year, I have been rather manically rushing about trying to do things I really want to do.

Which, although I enjoy it, does not include blogging because my thinking goes like this: if I am struck down with a nasty disease hopefully I will at least be able to sit in bed and blog from my laptop, for a while at least.  But while I can get about physically, rather than virtually, I need to accomplish things.

So what have I been doing since I was last here, both writing and reading your blogs.

I went to Newton’s House, he of the apple and gravity, saw The Tree, and had a wonderful day.

I went to Scarborough for a few days, wonderful days of sun, sea and fresh air.

I went to the best preserved Workhouse in the UK to learn more about our social history.  Very good, but not heart warming!

I have been to Orkney to visit the ongoing archeological dig there and had some wonderful trips with rangers and warden, quite extraordinary and mind-blowing.

I have had countless days out with various members of the family and arranged two more today: my ex-daughter in law has a birthday this week, so we are going to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on her birthday so see an exhibition of wildlife inspired work by Tom Frost and then at the weekend when more of the family will be around we are going over to Cheshire to visit Quarry Bank Mill, which has been the location for a recent TV series here in the UK.


Unfortunately I did not manage to go on these last two visits as I was struck down with Shingles: my doctor thinks as a result of the exhaustion of looking after my friend this winter and spring.)

Then the other notable happening this summer was as follows:
In the middle of June one of our female geese went broody.  She had hidden two eggs while I was away for a few days and husband had not noticed.  Since we did not know how long she had been sitting we felt we could not throw away possible maturing embryos.  A week later her sister became broody as well.  We tried in vain to ‘break’ this second goose’s condition by taking her off the nest she had built and making her go back outside with the rest of the little flock. However, she just prowled round the house and garden, shouting with anger and grief and pecking at whatever windows she could get at. After 45 minutes we gave in as we could not bear to cause her such distress and let her return to her nest beside her sister. So we had semi-detached brooding going on.

broody geese 005
We only have a few geese – three females and one gander – just for their eggs and as pets (they also make great ‘guarddogs’), but we really do not want or need any more.  We immediately removed the couple of eggs this second goose had secreted and instead we raided the fridge and took out the oldest egg which was four weeks old, right from the coldest part of the fridge, at the very bottom, and gave this to this second broody goose to sit on. No way could this egg be viable in our opinion, so she could sit and we could be sure of NO MORE GEESE from her, at least.
A goose usually sits for about 28-34 days before the eggs hatch, depending on species. This old, cold, egg was from a Chinese goose and their eggs tend to need the longest incubation period, so we were expecting 35 days give or take one or two.
By day 40 both geese were still sitting tight but we were sure the eggs must have gone ‘off’ and it was time to throw them out and make the geese give up their vigils: I picked up the eggs, gently as I did not want an old, toxic egg exploding all over me, ready to take them out to the rubbish. The two eggs from under the first goose felt very light, and I gave them a tiny shake to see if the contents were liquid, which is what I would expect of a bad egg. And, sure enough, I heard the symptomatic swishing sound indicating that they had ‘gone off’.

Then I picked up the egg from under the second broody goose.  It felt heavier than I expected and when I shook it I felt and heard nothing at all. I hovered and havered and finally thought, “Oh well, give it a couple more days just to be on the safe side” and I replaced it under its ‘mother’.  So we had one broody sitting on an egg and one broody sitting on nothing.

Amber 2014 058

Several times I opened the goose run to see both broody sisters sitting side by side, incubating the remaining egg.  Neither would give up and go outside.
On day 45 I opened the goose run to let them out and what did I see? This tiny little head peeping out from under the second broody goose who had regained sole ownership of ‘her’ egg.

Amber 2014 062.jpg 1

My first thoughts were, “Oh, how sweet. How thrilling. A baby around the place.”
My second made my blood run cold, “What if I had thrown the egg out, and a perfectly viable baby goose had died slowly in its egg, or had hatched in the warm weather to find no-one to look after it or feed it.”
But our story has a happy ending. A lovely, healthy young gosling did appear, 45 days after the mother began sitting. This must be some kind of record.

Both geese sat with the gosling that day but  the new, inexperienced mother goose did not notice that her baby had fallen outside her nest during the early evening and could not climb back to sit underneath her. It became chilled during the evening and early night, and when I discovered the fact at 11.00 pm it was shivering and chilled. I put it in an incubator for the night expecting the worst, but it was lonely and cried. So I did what I have done before for very young or fragile baby chicks and ducks, put into practice what an old hand at poultry rearing told me many years ago: I slept with it sitting on my shoulder just where my neck meets the shoulder. The carotid artery runs up the neck here and makes for both a comforting pulse sound and also gives out heat. At this age no poult produces ‘poop’ so it is very clean.
Apart from making sure I did not squash it, which means one only sleeps very lightly, and answering its occasional questioning cheeps, we had an uneventful night. But I did notice that it sneezed frequently and every breath it took produced a crackling noise. Also one eye was half shut.

I feared that a cold was already developing which, at such a tender age, can kill a young bird extremely fast. So next morning I rang the vet very early and we went straight over first thing to have it checked out and given some antibiotic.  S/he was 22 hours old when we came in for a consultation!  All the veterinary nurses crowded round to cluck over the little thing, and with the female vet as well, there were four women being broody.

Amber 2014 077

So for the first few weeks of its life the bird spent the night in an incubator  by our bed under a lamp where it could see us and hear us, and it spent the days with its mother,Amber 2014 064with a lamp shining into the run to keep it warm, as now that it was hatched, the mother did not want it back under her wings for some reason.  Its aunt insisted on staying right beside them, so in effect it had several mums.

The newest member of the flock (with me standing guard against buzzard attack).

Amber 2014 081

So, I have been rather preoccupied recently.

This was six weeks ago, and we have had several ups and downs since, which I will post about, but you may be pleased to know that it is doing well:)

Amber 2014 082.jpg 1

No feet

I had a birthday recently and went off to the seaside for the day with my sister and brother in law.  For some reason I have a passion for being by the sea and on the sea.  Clearly some Viking blood trying to emerge. Most of my birthdays growing up involved either going to the cinema or being on a boat, or preferably, both! Anyway, it was a glorious day, blue skies, hot sunshine and the very best of an English summer.  We were headed to the East coast, just at the south end of the Humber estuary, so facing onto the North Sea.  The sea there is muddy rather than blue or green because of the huge amount of silt coming from both the Humber itself and also washing down southwards from further up the coast. As we came onto the foreshore we noticed the haar, or fret as my brother in law called it, hovering over the sea. cleethorpes beach in the frethaar 003   In fact it first appeared as swirling wraithes of smoke twirling over the water and the wet sand while we stood in bright, hot sunshine.  Then it rolled up the coast to us from the south, getting thicker and thicker.cleethorpes beach in the frethaar 011 The oddest effect was that people’s feet were vanishing out of view cleethorpes beach in the frethaar 002  as the haar swirled and eddied and gathered on the water’s surface:the groyne’s appeared to be like lost teeth or castellations sitting in water whereas they were sitting in in mist.  The higher patches of sand were clearer.  Then the pier itself lost its feet. cleethorpes beach in the frethaar 004.jpg 1 Both edifices and humans were insubstantially supported.  I do wish I was a good enough painter to catch the effect because it was actually rather magical.cleethorpes beach in the frethaar 009 I have often seen the haar on the East Coast but hitherto it has always been as a complete, solid sea mist often reaching onto the land and sometimes staying for days at a time.  But in this instance it was alive, moving and eerie: one could understand the old myths of wraithes and marsh spirits.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In meteorology, haar is a coastal fog. Haar is typically formed over the sea and is brought to land by wind advection. This commonly occurs when warmer moist air moves over the relatively cooler North Sea causing the moisture in the air to condense, forming haar. Sea breezes and Easterly winds then bring the haar into the East coast of Scotland and North-East England where it can continue for several miles inland. This can be common in Summer when heating of the land creates a sea breeze, bringing haar in from the sea and as a result can significantly reduce temperatures compared to those just a few miles inland. The term haar is used along certain lands bordering the North Sea, primarily eastern Scotland and the North East of England. Variants of the Scots term include har, hare, harl, harr, hoar and the origin may be probably from a Low German or Dutch dialect word akin to Dutch dialect harig damp, misty, Middle Dutch hare sharp wind, piercing cold, Frisian harig misty, Old Norse hārr gray, hoary.”

My brother in law kept using the word ‘fret’ which I had never heard before, just as he had never heard the word ‘haar’.  And we were both talking about the same thing!  Talk about divided by a common language.  I also discovered on the internet that, “In Yorkshire and Northumberland it is commonly referred to as a sea fret”.

On this beach quicksands develop as the tide comes in, and because it is such a shallow incline, one can very suddenly become cut off by rivulets cutting across the beach. A Beach Safety Team patrols every hour along beach when tide is coming in to both warn people and help those in difficulties.

http://i.thisis.co.uk/275583/article/images/2507779/1718471-large.jpg There are notices and flags all along the beach but still I saw people wading out despite the warnings.  Several people were stopped by the Patrol but as soon as it had moved on they continued to walk out: this was so irresponsible, especially one man I saw accompanied by two tiny children, walking out to the sea through the thickening mist and incoming tide.  By this time the mist had become fairly static and really thick. The foghorns were sounding their plaintive, rather scary moans, and a chill ran up the spine.

cleethorpes beach in the frethaar 011.jpg 1I’m all for individual responsibility but when it puts others’ lives at risk by causing them to have to rescue one, it becomes sheer selfishness and stupidity.

By mid afternoon the sun had burned off the haar and we sat on the beach having a picnic at 6.0 pm with good visibility. We could see massive container ships leaving the end of the estuary and heading out to sea through the old forts  from World Wars I and II which still guard the entrance.

A lovely day out, with sunshine, good air and lots of interest thrown in.

For those interested:

Humber Forts  From Wikipedia.

    Haile Sand Fort  – not my photo –  (Original uploader was Jpacarter at en.wikipedia)

Bull Sand Fort – not my photo – (Original uploader was Neoskywalker at en.wikipedia)

The Humber Forts are two large fortifications in the mouth of the Humber estuary in northern England: Haile Sand Fort and Bull Sand Fort.
The two forts were planned in 1914 to protect the entrance to the estuary. They stand 59 feet (18 m) above the water and have a diameter of 82 feet (25 m). There was accommodation for 200 soldiers. Started in May 1915, they took more than four years to build and construction was not finished until December 1919.
During the Second World War they were reactivated and modernised. The forts were regularly attacked by enemy aircraft. During this time, they installed a netting to prevent enemy submarines from travelling up the estuary to Hull or Grimsby. The forts were finally abandoned by the military in 1956.


Up in the hills

There has been strange activity up in the hills near us recently.

For months roads have been being resurfaced, not that they were the worst near here by any means.

Brand new white lines perfectly drawn.

Rumours abounding.  Money from the EU.  All Sheffield roads to be repaired. And believe me they need to be, the potholes need to be seen to be believed.

Then – “The Tour de France is coming to a village near you”

And those last rumours proved to be quite right.  Last Sunday, Stage 2 of the Tour de France came through a village very close to mine.

Neighbours had parking places booked in farmers’ fields at £150.00 for the day: they had to be in place by 7.0 am and not able to leave much before 5.0 pm.  Burger vans, camp sites, ice cream vans, memorabilia vans, you name it and they were there.  You could not move in the small village for strangers and food outlets.  And all the local pubs were cashing in with special weekend beer festivals.

We decided we could not afford to spend so much for parking, but neither did I feel I had the energy to walk the few miles which were nearly all up hill, to watch.

The cyclists were due to come through at about 3.30 pm we were informed.  So at lunchtime we decided to take to the back roads and see how close we could get to the action.  After all, we would not have the opportunity again.

I drove up one lane to find hordes of perspiring people toiling their way up a very steep, and hugely long, hill.  No other cars were driving up so I feared that I would be stopped near the top and have to back all the way down through the crowds.  Not a happy thought.

However, the stars must have been in alignment for us, because we were allowed right to the top of the hill, despite all the side roads being closed to cars, where a farmer had opened his field to cars for just £10.00.  We drove across the field, parked and only had to walk about 25 feet to be at the side of the road, in a clear space from which to watch.  You can just see the cars on the right behind wall.



The sun was shining and families had come with pushchairs, flags, sunshades and picnics.



There was a very spread-out five mile cavalcade of police cars, motorbikes, advertising vans – (all with scantily clad dancing girls on top and many throwing out free gifts), Tour de France vans, and every type of French Policeforce in evidence.  Most of the French police were hailing us in strongly accented English and some were blowing kisses!


There were no crowd control barriers or police enforcement which was a nice change!  One police car did stop and warn us that the Tour de France would come quick and fast and stop for nothing so we should stay behind the white lines for our own safety, but after that we were left to our own devices.  Some of the Police stopped and gave children a ‘sit’ on their bikes and ‘high-fived’ people as they came past but it was all jollity and fun and music, no sense of constraint at all.

We were standing at 1,000 feet elevation so the cyclists had a climb up to us, and then were descending away into Sheffield.

Here they come, just over the top and coming down.



Right in front of me and now at speed.


Then in the flash of an eye they were past and going downhill


We thought it was all over but then several more groups of cyclists came past, clearly not the front runners but still working hard


All followed by the back-up cars with extra bikes and spare parts.



And that was it.

We gradually dispersed – drove back down the hill to a burger tent selling locally farmed meat and home made cakes, plus strong cups of tea.


A fun day.

Later we went to a local pub for our evening meal where the talk was all about who had been where, and how they had got there, and what they had seen.  Just for once Yorkshire has seen some of the action even though we are not near London.

Mind you, on the local news later it was only North Yorkshire which got the real mention: during 30 minutes of Tour de France news we in South Yorkshire only got 30 seconds!



A flock divided

And subdivided!

I told you the other day about the goose, young Chi, that I found to be broody when I came home from Poland.

Well a few days ago I found the other Chinese goose, young Tai, who I used to think was a gander (!), was trying to share Chi’s nest.  Two geese on two eggs was just not working: either one had both eggs and the other was unhappy, or both eggs got left on the edge and became cool, or the jostling for an egg was looking decidedly dangerous for the survival of either egg.

Three days ago I shut the door on Chi,

broody geese 004

and let Tai sit just outside on the hay, close beside her, but not on any egg.

Tai put up with this with a lot of gruntling, but by this morning she just would not stop shrieking and shouting.  Did I ever mention how vocal Chinese Geese are?

So I put her outside wondering if she had had enough of sitting on no egg and now wanted to be out with the others in the field.

Oh no, that was not what she was trying to tell me.  She just carried on shouting and complaining until we could stand it no more: I took a goose egg out of the bottom of the fridge and went outside and showed it to her, from about 25 yards.

It took a couple of seconds and then she realised what I was holding: she came running at full speed and followed me into the run.  It was very touching actually.

So I put the egg in some extra hay in the run and shut the run door.  Tai spent a happy half hour making a nest, and is now sitting tight.

broody geese 001.jpg 1

She is in the run, outside the box with Chi in.

broody geese 005


Semi-detached brooding.

But then the calling began again: only this time not from either Chinese goose.  It was Gandalf and Debra who were upset that the flock was divided.  They  are hanging about on the step wanting to come in and sit with the others.

broody geese 010

Honestly, there is never any peace around here:)


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