Jonathan: Blue-Ring-Right, the gander who was distraught at losing his partner, is getting back on his feet again. A female goose has started taking an interest in him: she follows him about, keeping a distance, and occasionally he chases her away; but this morning she was nearer than I’ve yet seen. She’s looking for someone to help her raise some goslings this spring and he’s still in the prime of life, and not otherwise engaged. Once one goose starts to sit on eggs, all the others want to do the same.
Jonathan: The geese too have Spring in their step! The oldest pair of geese we have on the croft are now four years old, and have stuck together faithfully. He hisses at everyone, but I’ve never known him show any real aggression, except to other ganders. He and his partner are inseparable, so it was odd to see him on his own this morning, and he didn’t want to come over to where I was feeding the others. After seeing to the hens, I went exploring: and there she was in the old barrel I put straw into a fortnight or so ago: and she was sitting on a clutch of eggs!
Jonathan. My heart sank with the weight of both sadness at another’s loss, and guilt that I am the cause of that loss.. Any one who has ever seen the panic of a young child that has lost sight of it parents, or the parents of their child, would have recognised the same thing, yesterday as I turned back to the car after my morning rounds on the croft. Blue-ring-right (that’s his identity leg-ring) was running around wildly, head up, honking loudly … and immediately I realized that the goose I’d culled just fifteen minutes before, out of sight of the others, must have been his partner. Although not the oldest male, he was unquestionably the leader of the flock, all the others following him to grazing or to shelter or a place to spend the night. He was brave and bold: although never aggressive with humans he would always put himself between me and the others. Blue-ring-right had won his harem from an older male: last year they were the two with orange rings on their right legs, who were still there this morning; but the goose I culled yesterday had no leg ring. A dominant male with a harem may lose some of his partners to an up-and-coming competitor, but those lower in the social order will often keep the same one partner as long as they live. Whatever the explanation for this change Blue-ring-right was, this morning, like a man utterly broken with grief, sitting apart from the rest, head down, no interest in food. Had this happend in September – which is when by rights I should have completed all the culling – he would have had time to make new relationships; but with Spring on its way the geese are already pairing, he must have lost all hope. It’s quite possible he may starve himself to death for want of the partner he’s lost. I really feel bad about this: it’s not that I question the idea of keeping geese and killing them for food, but that I have fallen far short of the highest standard of animal husbandry. I must make amends: but how?