What’s Good For The Goose . . . May Be Relocating (To Another Summer Home)

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 BarnacleGoose-3swimming.BirdArt-Kuvat-Finland

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.)

BarnacleGoose-RangeMap.WikipediaCommons

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.

BarnacleGoose-pair.Helsinki-KaivopuistoPark

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.]

BarnacleGoose-LeedsCastle-Kent.ThomasCogley-sideview

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.

TsarBomb.Russian-Hbomb-AD1961

Explosion of Soviet Union’sЦарь-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.

BarnacleGoose-with-goslings.JoeBlossom-Arkive

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.

BarnacleGoose-GreylagGoose-hybrid.NorfolkEngland-DavidAppleton

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    profjjsj@aol.com


BarnacleGoose-flock-Islay.BirdGuides
Winter flock of Barnacle Geese, Islay, Inner Hebrides   (photo credit: Stef McElwee / Birdguides)

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Barnacle Goose

Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) by Ian 1

Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) by Ian 1

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Barnacle Goose ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 9-10-12

I’m back in Dublin after the sad and sudden death of my brother-in-law Gerald, so I’ve chosen a soberly dressed and elegant bird with, for me, an Irish connection, the Barnacle Goose. Barnacle Goose nest in the arctic and winter the more remote areas in Western Europe including the West of Ireland. During a particular severe winter in the 1960s I once saw a flock on the Bull Island in Dublin Bay, a place better known for as a winter haunt of the closely related Brent (British Isles) or Brant (North America) Goose.

On the last day of my trip to Finland in June, I came across a flock grazing near the beach in Hanko on the south east coast. I assumed that it was a feral flock as they were very approachable and I discovered only later that Barnacle Geese have been nesting on islands in the Baltic for the past 40 years.

They are relatively small with a length of 55-70cm/22-28in and, I think, very beautiful. The specific name leucopsis means ‘white-faced’ and the genus Branta comprises the mainly black and white geese including the Brant/Brent and the Canadian.

Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) by Ian 2

Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) by Ian 2

The name ‘Barnacle’ was originally applied to the goose not the crustacean and the two are linked by a strange myth that developed in the middle ages when the nesting sites of the goose were unknown and the nature of bird migration was not understood. To explain the mysterious appearance of these geese, it was proposed that they hatched from the goose-liked stalk barnacles Lepas anserifera (‘goose-bearing’) which grows on drift wood. The confusion was confounded by the notion that the goose barnacle was actually a plant and sometimes called the goose tree, below, reproduced from Wikipedia.

Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) by Ian 3

Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) by Ian 3

The myth naturally had religious consequences as it was argued that the Barnacle Geese were not of animal origin or not really fowl. So, eating the goose on meat-less fast days was considered by some Christians to be acceptable. The Jewish faith took a different approach and ruled that they were kosher and must be slaughtered appropriately.

Best wishes
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
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http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates


Lee’s Addition:

and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 NKJV)

Thanks, Ian. Sorry to hear about Gerald. We will keep you and your sister’s family in our prayers. That is an interesting myth.

See more of Ian’s Bird of the Week.

Ian’s Birdway – Ducks & Allies.

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