BARNACLE GOOSE BIOGEOGRAPHY: WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE MAY INCLUDE RELOCATING (AWAY FROM BREEDING GROUNDS TOO CLOSE TO RUSSIA’S H-BOMB TESTING SITE!)
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
BARNACLE GOOSE trio, swimming in Finland (photo credit: Kuvat / ArtBird)
And Solomon’s provision for one day was 30 measures of fine flour, and 60 measures of meal, 10 fat oxen, and 20 oxen out of the pastures, and 100 sheep, beside harts, and roebucks, and fallow-deer, and fatted fowl. (1st Kings 4:22-23)
Are geese alluded to in Scripture, although not by the name “goose”? Maybe. King Solomon was famous for providing banquets on a daily basis, including “fatted fowl” – which likely included geese, according to British zookeeper-zoölogist George Cansdale:
[Consider the likely] possibility that domestic geese were the fatted fowl — Heb. barburim — supplied daily to Solomon’s table. . . . This wild goose [i.e., the Greylag Goose, mixed with all geese that hybridize with it] breeds naturally in N. and central Europe and may have first been domesticated there. It was kept, perhaps already fully domesticated, very early in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, probably as a resutl of trapping some of the many winter migrants. . . . [Although we don’t know] when they first reached Palestine … [carved] ivories of the eleventh century B.C. from Megiddo illustrate tame geese beiogn tended, and this is the century before Solomon, so there is no doubt that they were available [to King Solomon, who procured resources from neighboring regions in Europe, Asia, and Africa].
[Quoting George S. Cansdale, ALL THE ANIMALS OF THE BIBLE LANDS (Zondervan, 1976), page ; see contextual discussion at pages 178-180.]
The mostly-migratory Barnacle Goose is a favorite of many birdwatchers in northern Europe. It is more likley to be seen during its wintering months, unless one ventures above the Arctic Circle. (The exception is a Barnacle Goose population residing in Baltic Sea coastlands, which appears content to dwell there year-round – see range map below.)
BARNACLE GOOSE RANGE MAP (Cartographic credit: Wikipedia Commons)
In my sporadic wanderings, during years past, specifically on July 7th of AD2006 – I saw several Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis) strolling about in Kaivopuisto Park, by the Helsinki Harbor, in Finland.
BARNACLE GOOSE pair, in Kaivopuisto Park, Helsinki, Finland (photo credit: Juha Matti / Picssr)
This migratory goose, which during the summer is common in (and near) Helsinki’s Kaivopuisto Park (where I saw some loitering and lounging on the park grass), has been described as follows:
An immaculate, sociable little goose, only slightly larger than a Mallard. Tiny bill and a white face peering out of black ‘balaclava’ diagnostic. Unlike the much larger Canada Goose, black extends over [its] breast and body is grey (not brown). All [seasonal] plumages similar, but juvenile duller with plain, unbarred flanks. Feral or escaped [e.g., from British zoos] birds are also frequent at inland sites in England [e.g., Leeds Castle, in Kent, where I visited in AD2003], often [mixed] with Canadas [i.e., with Canada Geese].
[Quoting Chris Knightley, Steve Madge, & Dave Nurney, POCKET GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF BRITAIN AND NORTH-WEST EUROPE (London & New Haven, Yale Univ. Press, 1998), page 31.]
BARNACLE GOOSE at Leeds Castle, Kent, England (photo credit: Thomas Cogley)
Like other geese, these birds know how to use their voices:
Noisy, even when feeding, their high-pitched, yelping barks [!] reaching a crescendo as the shimmering flock rises – sounds not unlike a pack of chasing hounds.
[Quoting Knightley, Madge, & Nurney, POCKET GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF BRITAIN AND NORTH-WEST EUROPE, page 31.] These geese are herbivores — feeding mostly on grasses, leaves, roots, tubers, aquatic plants, and/or agricultural crops (such as grains grown in northern Europe’s farmlands), and their digestive processes adi in seed dispersals. Predators of Barnacle Geese – especially during the breeding season — include Peregrine Falcons, Arctic Foxes, and Polar Bears.
Besides Sweden’s (and other) Baltic coastlands, these cool-weather-loving geese habitually summer in the Arctic’s far north, including breeding grounds in Iceland, Svalbard, Greenland, and Russia’s arctic archipelago Novaya Zemla (and on the Siberian coast just south of Novaya Zemla).
Students of the Cold War can appreciate that Novaya Zemla was a scary place to be on October 30th of AD1961, when the USSR tested its RDS-220 hydrogen bomb “Ivan” (a/k/a Tsar Bomba (Russian Царь-бомба, i.e., “Tsar Bomb”), the largest man-made explosion detonated in world history.
Explosion of Soviet Union’s “Царь-бомба” Hydrogen Bomb
seen from 100 miles away (public domain)
Based on migratory habits the Barnacle Gees were likely absent when the blast occurred — but what was it like, during the next spring, when the geese would have migrated north, to their usual breeding grounds in Novaya Zemla? Some emigrants of the Novaya Zemla-breeding population of Barnacle Geese, however, relocated to and colonized (from their ancestral breeding grounds in Russia’s Novaya Zemla) various coastlands around the Baltic Sea’s northern shores, i.e., they now summer upon islands or coastlands of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Estonia (and afterwards winter within and near the Netherlands).
Meanwhile, during winter, other Barnacle Goose populations (such as those that breed in Iceland or Greenland) migrate to the much milder “Western Isles” of Scotland (i.e., the Hebrides, e.g., Islay) — or on the western coast of Ireland — or in the Solway Firth region of the England-Scotland border.
BARNACLE GOOSE parent & goslings (photo credit: Joe Blossom / Arkive.org )
Of course, many “species” of geese descend from the ancestral pairs of goose-kind that survived the Genesis Flood aboard Noah’s Ark. Consider, for example, the photograph below (by David Appleton), showing a goose standing in grass of Holkham Park (in Norfolk, England) — which appears to be a Barnacle Goose X Greylag Goose hybrid.
Barnacle/Greylag Goose hybrid, Norfolk, England (photo credit: David Appleton)
Meanwhile, if I was a Barnacle Goose – and thank God that He created me to be me, instead! – I’d prefer Helsinki’s Kaivopuisto Park as my year-round home habitat, rather than summer in Novaya Zemla. (As far as I’m concerned, let the Arctic Ocean polar bears have that arctic archipelago!) ><> JJSJ firstname.lastname@example.org