In the new year I had a little success on the poetry front, albeit with three previously published poems, two on the Hygge section of Angela Topping’s lovely blog and one on Sally Evans’, equally lovely Keep Poems Alive. There are some super poems on both sites so it’s well worth taking a look.
On The Island Review, my letter from Islay included, among other things, an account of the supposed relationship between barnacle geese and goose barnacles.
These unusual crustaceans, related to prawns and lobsters are at the mercy of wind and tide. Each 4 cm individual attaches itself to a floating object by way of a long stalk or peduncle. Discovering a colony of thousands was an unexpected bonus to a walk along Laggan Bay.
In 1633, John Gerard, botanist and author of ‘Gerard’s Herbal’, wrote:- ‘There are found in the north parts of Scotland, and the islands adjacent, certain trees whereon do grow certain shells of a white colour tending to russet wherein are contained little living creatures, out of them grow those little living things, which falling into water, do become fowles, which we call Barnakles’.
This myth arose from the fact that Barnacle Geese, Branta leucopsis, were only observed in Britain during the winter months. There was no evidence of their breeding and it was concluded that barnacles were a kind of fruit, which, when ripe gave birth to geese. Hence the linking of the names – the geese becoming known as Barnacle Geese and the barnacles becoming known as Goose Barnacles.
It was later discovered that Barnacle Geese breed in Iceland and Greenland and that at least 45% of those from Greenland visit Islay’s RSPB Gruinart Reserve. Not restricted to the Reserve, they are a familiar sight around Islay, whether drawing distinctive v shapes across the sky or scattered on grassland, merse and shore like the members of a smartly dressed black and white army.
A trip to the mainland allowed us to spend a morning among the magnificent trees at Ardkinglass on the shores of Loch Fyne where the incredible size of the European Silver Fir impressed us once again. This 250 year old specimen is 50 metres tall and has a 10 metre girth. It was an absolute joy to stand – and sit beside this wonderful specimen.
At home the snowdrops are out in Bridgend Woods and the numbers in our garden increase year on year. The first one to come out appeared on the First of January and others followed throughout the month. Lesser Celandines are appearing too and there are always a few dandelions and daisies braving whatever the weather throws at them. Hazel catkins are fully out in the woods and tree buds are starting to swell despite the chilly winds. It’s good to see that the days are starting to lengthen although I suspect there is more wintry weather ahead.