Entries by Tristram Brelstaff (2941)

Monday
Aug092004

Egyptian Geese on Reading University Lakes

This afternoon I went for a walk with Liz  and Zoe around the three lakes in the grounds of Reading University.  These are set in an area of parkland that is just 10 minutes walk from where we live.  Liz often takes Zoe there to feed the ducks and geese after school.

For the past five years --and probably longer-- there has been a pair of Egyptian geese (Alopochen aegyptiacus) living on the larger of these lakes.  These are fairly weird looking birds which come in two forms: a darker rufous form with dark brown eye-patches and a lighter grey form with much fainter eye-patches. Our pair consists of one rufous and one grey.  The grey one --probably the female-- has a deformed leg and always seemed rather sickly, so last year I was surprised when the pair successfully reared three chicks.  This year they reared two more, and two of the previous year's offspring also reared a chick between them.  That makes eight in all, but Zoe tells me that one of last year's brood has either died or  else has left the area (presumably in search of a mate).  That leaves seven.  This afternoon we saw five of the extended family during our walk.  All of the chicks, both this year's and last, appear to be of the rufous form (this suggests that the grey form is genetically recessive).

I understand that there are only about 900 Egyptian geese in the UK and that 90% of these live in the wetlands of Norfolk. This means that our seven Egyptian geese represent about one thirteenth of the UK population outside Norfolk! (Of course, this assumes that the rest of the UK population has stayed the same.)

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