The Week of the Wild Geese

This is pretty much the view from my window just now.It’s grey and wet and the sky is heavy with featureless cloud. The leaves are turning, thanks to all the frosty nights and clear bright days we had last week and the last apples, too high to pick, are like copper buttons on the trees in the orchard. But the most significant event in the territory of rain is one I can’t photograph.

Morning and evening, every day for the last week, hundreds of geese have passed over heading west and a little north,(mostly right to left as you’re looking at that photo),towards the fields of the Carse of Stirling and Flanders Moss. They are mostly pink-footed geese, as you can tell from their cry (‘pinks wink’ as the saying goes), but there are also some greylags (greys honk), and once a skein of whooper swans strung out along the shoulder of Dumyat like a silver necklace. Some fly high and look like those m-shaped scribbles children use to draw sea-gulls. Some fly low and the sun catches on their wings and turns them to silver and black. But the noise is incredible, a peal of bells, a playground of rowdy children, a pack of hounds in full cry.

It’s no wonder that stories grew up around the flight of the geese. You can hear them at night too, when it isn’t just loud, it’s as eerie as those vixen cries or screech owl calls they use on television programmes to indicate the isolation and terror of the countryside. People believed that it was the ‘Wild Hunt’ or the ‘Gabriel Hounds’ hunting for lost souls, or the souls of those about to die in the coming winter, and I’m not surprised. I love it. As human life retreats indoors to firelight and storecupboard cooking, it’s good to hear the clamour from outside and remember that the winter landscape hasn’t been abandoned to the wind and frost.

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