Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Written in the Stars - or spelled out by the Geese!

Pink Footed Geese over Bolton-on-Dearne, flying back to RSPB Reserve Old Moor this weekend

The photo hastily clicked off from my mobile doesn't do them justice! Somehow the "rule of thirds" picture composition guideline was scuppered by that pesky overhead cable, but at least it gives some perspective to this winter spectacle!

I was disappointed to be too weak, as I often am, to make it to the beautiful RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) Reserve at Old Moor, in the Dearne Valley near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. But as I was going to a friend's for lunch after church, I heard a honking getting louder and louder. At first I thought it must be a neighbour on the estate on the slopes of the valley who was keeping domestic hens. Then I realised the sound was coming from the sky, high above us.

I looked up to see an expansive "V" formation of geese streaming across the leaden skies of an unpromising Sunday lunchtime. People were going about their business. Folk were in their kitchens preparing meals. One chap was tinkering with his car further down the street. Nobody seemed to notice, but I was transfixed.

No, I didn't make it to Old Moor, one of my favourite local birdwatching spots, this time. But instead, the birds came my way. When I got home the following day, I tweeted about the birds and one of the lovely staff at Old Moor replied to my tweet that the birds were actually Pink Footed Geese. They also joked that they'd sent the geese out flying around as publicity in return for their B&B! It certainly worked!

I'm hoping, if well enough in a couple of weeks, and if I can interest two other birdwatching, skygazing friends to accompany us, to go to Cormorants & Constellations: Stargazing Returns! This is an event hosted by RSPB Dearne Valley - Old Moor in collaboration with the Mexborough & Swinton Astronomcal Society later this month. Taking advantage of the flocks of winter bird visitors and the spectacular night skies of late January, members of the public will be able to watch the wildfowl coming in to roost (after a fly-past like they're doing in the photo above!) before having a unique chance to look at the stars and planets through powerful telescopes.

There'll even be a planetarium set up in the Visitor Centre, footage of stars in the Classroom area and new film of our Earth from space, taken by the ISS (International Space Station). The latter will take in place in the Gannets Cafe/Restaurant. Anyone who has ever been to Old Moor will know that place is second to none in Yorkshire for its simple warm welcome and excellent food prepared from local produce. Booking essential, so I'm really hoping I can manage to be there this time!

Looking at that photo I took again, I reckon the geese have changed their usual "V" into a curly "C" to advertise the Cormorants and Constellations event at which they may well be among the stars!

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