For 31 days one of the geese has been sitting on a clutch of eggs and yesterday just three out of about ten, hatched. Whilst she has sat she has eaten practically nothing, although I put a bowl of fresh corn by her nest each morning. She gets off the nest once a day to grab a mouthful of water and a snatch of grass, and she is back to the job in hand.
Geese lose an enormous amount of weight during this period; their fat reserves gone, their feathers go dry and brittle, and there is none of the usual chubbily overfilled nappy effect dangling between their legs.
Two other geese have also been laying eggs in the same hut, but have not started to sit as yet; they might if the new births don't distract them permanently.
Today, the goslings came out of the hut, down what for them must be an Everest of a ramp, and onto the grass which they pick at in curiosity. The sitting goose is surprisingly not central to the outing; she is off, heading for food, like the starving animal she is. Instead, the eldest goose seems to have taken charge - that's her, tattered head, sitting proudly as matriarch. The tattered head is the result of amorous gander behaviour; he's obviously keen on the old lady as her battle scars are worse than those of the younger geese.
But now the goslings are here, the gander will forsake fornication and take up position as prime protector. Each time the goslings wandered through the stock fencing he nudged them back with his beak. I couldn't get any nearer without risking a major pecking and a blast of ear-drum shattering honking , so the image is taken from a distance.
The extended family of the goose is something to admire; a whole army of aunts and dad to keep you safe, and the hand that brings the chick crumbs and fresh water at bay, or at a safe distance. I suspect the rest of the eggs will go to waste as the excitement and duty rota created by the new babes takes precedence. But at this young age, I'm not counting my goslings; even with the best protection racket in the animal kingdom, there may be none left by the end of next week.