Barnacle geese (pictured), bean geese and white-fronted geese all dropped in to Rainham just before Christmas as a sort of early present and although it was only the 82 barnacle geese that stayed for the dog days of December, it was all very welcome.
Barnacle geese get their name from an old fable that they grew from barnacles, the small hard-shelled sea creatures that cling to boat hulls and rocks. Because of this, Catholics were able to eat the geese during Lent because they were classified as fish!
It wasn't this fable that inspired my choice of Christmas roast, it was a desire to have something other than turkey. The goose we picked up from our local butcher was a tad bigger than the bird we'd ordered but after a bit of surgery, it fitted in the oven! I'm glad to say that our Christmas goose dinner was very tasty.
The number that settled on the pools at Rainham is great news for the volunteers and reserve staff who've laboured to create the habitats there. When I visited a couple of days later the place was alive with widgeon, the now famous barnacles and huge numbers of whirling, restless lapwings, not to mention an aray of other species such as long-tailed tit, bearded tit and brambling. The kingfisher's still putting on good displays for visitors and there are often sightings of short-eared owl, merlin, peregrine and marsh harrier. It was a nice way to end a busy year and to contemplate what 2008 may bring.
In London, it kicks off with the Destinations show at Earls Court on 26 January. You'll find us at stand UK9 and we'll be there every day through to 3 February. Although we will be talking about the fantastic experiences available at our reserves we'll also be sharing details of the ground breaking environmental project we're running on the Indonesian island of Sumatra along with Birdlife International and Burung Indonesia, a bird and wildlife NGO operating in Sumatra. If you decide to support our work at the event, you can leave with your very own soft, cuddly toy sumatran tiger! Come and say hello and find out more about the work of the RSPB and how we can work together to improve our environment to benefit people and wildlife.
As for a New Year's resolution, I'm going to be back in my garden, planting a hedge of dog wood, beech, buckthorn, hazel and blackthorn to screen the end of the garden and create lots of shelter for the growing hordes of tits and finches that are now starting to visit. By the end of 2008 I aim to have said goodbye to the ugly and extensive concrete-slab patio and hello to some turf and wildflowers, maybe even a few dwarf fruit trees. If you're not sure what to do to change your life in 2008, visit our website for some good ideas that will benefit your physical and mental well-being while helping wildlife at the same time.
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