The na­ture of things

Bar­na­cle goose

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook -

LOCKS of geese are ar­riv­ing on our shores, es­cap­ing from the im­pend­ing chill of an Arc­tic win­ter in their sum­mer breed­ing grounds. For bar­na­cle geese, their nav­i­ga­tion takes them to our shores as cer­tainly as GPS. Those from Spits­ber­gen home in on the Sol­way Firth, Green­land’s birds seek out the He­brides and those from Arc­tic Rus­sia head for Hol­land, but, if they over­shoot, may ar­rive on the marshes of Nor­folk and Kent. Nu­mer­ous birds so­journ on Ire­land’s coasts.

A charm­ing small, mono­chrome goose, the bar­na­cle long held a great mys­tery. Back in the mists of time, peo­ple won­dered from where th­ese great flocks of birds had come, fly­ing in from the seas and set­tling along coastal pas­tures. Ig­no­rant of dis­tant mi­gra­tions and with no ev­i­dence of nest­ing, the imag­i­na­tive con­clu­sion was that th­ese birds had risen out of the sea, from the oval black-and-white crus­taceans still known as goose- or goose­neck bar­na­cles. Not ev­ery­body was con­vinced. The Holy Ro­man Em­peror Fred­er­ick II (1194–1250) could find no ob­vi­ous phys­i­cal link. How­ever, Ger­ard in his Her­ball (1597) was at pains to up­hold the

Fmyth, il­lus­trat­ing it with fan­tas­ti­cal bar­na­cle ‘trees’ on the ocean’s edge, bear­ing large shells ‘and out of them grow those liv­ing things, which fall­ing into the wa­ter do be­come fowles, which we call Bar­nakles’. KBH

Il­lus­tra­tion by Bill Dono­hoe

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