Vanessa divides her time between Hertfordshire and the Hebrides and loves to write about birds, butterflies and beachcombing. She gave up corporate life during the pandemic, taking the plunge to follow her passion for wildlife. Recently finishing a Masters in Nature and Travel Writing, she has been announced as a Runner-Up in the BBC Countryfile New Nature Writer of the Year competition. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @elgeeko1506.
There’s an old Scottish Gaelic proverb, “Innsidh na geòidh as t-fhoghar e”. The geese will tell it in autumn.
As the sea snaps and the sky darkens by the minute, a conversational chatter emanates from the mist. This is what I’d been waiting for. A procession of thirty monochrome masterpieces from faraway lands flies close to the snarling surf.
The Brent geese have arrived at last. Each with a sleek black neck, a clergyman’s collar, and feathers as smoky as charred wood, our smallest overwintering geese have returned from their breeding grounds on the Arctic tundra. This extended family flock are the pale-bellied race and have travelled thousands of miles from Greenland and Canada. They skid onto the water, famished, and begin to forage among the rocks, dipping their heads beneath the surface as if bobbing for apples. Their babbling honks grow louder. What are these birds telling us?
These geese are in search of eelgrass. But their beaks are coming up empty time and time again. Their favourite food is in rapid decline thanks to pollution and pathogens. Ripped-up rhizomes have been torn from the seabed by a series of storms and lie wilted, like week-old spring onions, beneath my feet. The long needle-shaped leaves are critical contributors in the battle against climate change, capable of capturing more carbon than rainforests. And on an island at risk of coastal erosion, these maritime meadows are essential in stabilising shorelines. As I stand on the beach, and the wind increases in intensity, I can’t help but wonder if these empty beaks are sounding out a warning.
Perhaps it is about time we listened. There isn’t any more time to find out what will be revealed. The geese are telling us now. And their message is loud and clear.[registration_form]