The Meaning of Geese: A Thousand Miles in Search of Home

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The Meaning of Geese: A Thousand Miles in Search of Home

The Meaning of Geese: A Thousand Miles in Search of Home

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The community includes some who watch the birds for recreation and others for whom this is a professional (ecological) relationship; then there are the landowners and tenant farmers who host the vast flocks, and the wildfowlers who take sport from them. Thank you very much to the publisher and NetGalley for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. But The Second Cut is as blackly comic as it is squalid and Welsh balances all the storylines with ease. Stuck at home with no work and no people, I got on my mother's 40-year-old bicycle and followed Norfolk's thrilling flocks of pink-footed and brent geese.

It is good to be made aware of how interlinked we are across the globe by migration and also by the internet so that geese experts can easily talk to one another. This was indeed to be a low-carbon initiative, undertaken on his mother’s 40-year-old red bicycle and spanning September 2021 to the start of the following spring. Pink-footed geese descend on the Holkham Estate in their thousands, but there were smaller flocks and rarer types as well: from Canada and greylag to white-fronted and snow geese. Born and raised in Norfolk, Nick has a life-long love for wildlife and particularly the wild geese that arrive there in their thousands every year. This book is so much more though than just about Norfolk and about geese; it is a beautiful personal journey for the reader.

Framed by living alone during lockdown, the narrative reveals a broader community of goose enthusiasts, drawn together by a fascination for these winter visitors, both common and rare. I loved this book from the opening pages despite knowing nothing about Norfolk, and not being particularly into geese before reading it. Well-known for the breadth of his knowledge on nature and the environment, and the wit and ease with which he explains complex ideas, Nick is an experienced broadcaster with a wide range of credits. Mostly I read a hardback library book and got lost in his descriptions of geese, the people from his life and his story. Whether on his own or with friends and experts, and in fair weather or foul, he became obsessed with spending as much time observing geese as he could – even six hours at a stretch.

Although the author’s encounters are presented through a season of watching geese, and made possible through the miles cycled on an ancient bicycle, don’t expect this to be your typical quest-based nature writing; it is much more than that. In the preparation of his first book he cycled 1,200 miles on his mother's forty-two-year-old bicycle. Nick has contributed to New Networks for Nature, Norwich Science Festival, British Bird and Wildlife Fair, Self-Isolating Bird Club, The Tree Council's Hedge Harmonies, and Oxford Real Farming Conference.In the UK he has worked on a huge range of projects for Norfolk Wildlife Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, Pensthorpe and others. Ten years later he came home from this three-month stint, having worked in nature conservation and sustainable development the length and breadth of Bolivia, across South America, and in Australia and India.

By the time the geese fly north in spring, he’s pedalled a thousand often wet and miserable miles of his own, all to count and identify the resident flocks and share his findings on the goose web. Nick has written for BBC Wildlife, British Birds, British Wildlife, The Guardian, The Big Issue, BTO News, The Countryman and numerous other publications.Still, I admire Acheson’s fervour: “I watch birds not to add them to a list of species seen; nor to sneer at birds which are not truly wild. The company publishes authors who bring in-depth, practical knowledge to life and give readers hands-on information related to organic farming and gardening, ecology and the environment, healthy food, sustainable economics, progressive politics and most recently, integrative health and wellness. The Covid-19 lockdowns spawned a number of nature books in the UK and, although the pandemic is not a major element here, one does get a sense of how Acheson struggled with isolation as well as the normal winter blues and found comfort and purpose in birdwatching. Next time I'm birdwatching in Norfolk, I'll be looking a little more closely at the various species of geese, and wondering where they've been, and where they're going. This resonance is particularly strong for those birdwatchers, and others, who are rooted within the landscapes touched by these birds on their long migratory journeys.

What emerges is a sense of shared passion, and a shared responsibility for the future of these birds. I emerged from the book with insights about the author, his wonderful home county, and - of course - of geese, but also a sense of calm and a reflection on my own priorities and self. Birds continue to arrive in the UK from more northerly regions to spend the next few months here in our warmer winters, before.I'm thrilled to be sharing my native Norfolk (and other sites around the UK) with Wildlife Worldwide clients again.

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