In pursuit of geese and a flying ‘V’…

One of the great things about living in the island city of Portsmouth is the joy of watching the changes that the ebb and flow of the weather and the seasons create along the extensive coastline.

In the spring and summer months, the eastern coast of Portsea transforms into a beach-heath…

(You can read more about this beach-heath habitat here).

Whilst in the winter, the plant life lies dormant on the surface of the shingle in the face of the harsh winter winds, although other life always arrives willingly (and unwillingly), as the cold begins to bite. In stormy weather, starfish are occasionally tossed and stranded onto the beach in their hundreds (wuthering winds indeed), and passersby often seem to overlook or indeed, to walk on them.

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More willing visitors to the Portsea coastline are the gaggle of Brent Geese (find out more here), that migrate from as far north as Greenland and Svalbard every winter. It is wonderful to observe these geese each year as they fly and graze across Portsmouth, and it has become a little quest of mine to try to capture the geese in a perfect flying ‘V’, or wedge formation as it is so called. Unfortunately, my attempts so far to photograph a skein (the collective and more interesting noun for geese in flight) in ‘V’ have failed with comic ineptitude.

Part of the challenge of photographing the optimum wedge is the level of opportunism involved. The geese are unsurprisingly flighty, and at times, I would even say cheeky in their movements. I may observe a pair of geese begin to fly off to graze elsewhere, but they return to the ground almost immediately when their attempt to instigate an impromptu skein has been ignored. (Oh the subtle art of flight politics!) At other times, two or three will soar off to pastures different, heedless of their still grounded companions. (Clearly the divas of the gaggle).

When a full skein does appear in the sky (always heard before seen), the movement is always a little unpredictable as they tend to surface suddenly from the common or cricket grounds where they like to graze en masse. With laughable inexactitude, I am always in the wrong place at the wrong time, and when I do get lucky, they change direction mid flight, as they decide to fly out to settle on the sea, or across the sea and back in, or to simply power fly across from one grazing ground to another…

Another challenge has been negotiating the delicate dance of walking this little one, and seizing the moment of ‘V’, whilst awkwardly standing trapped in a dog lead, and attempting to take photographs at random whilst still remaining upright…

Alas! The closest I have come to the perfect ‘V’ or, ahem, ‘D’, or ‘L’ (upside down) is here…

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Perhaps the quest for the ultimate ‘V’ is in vain, especially when this is the glorious spectacle that can be seen instead…


….after all, my grandmother always used to say, ‘God loves a trier.’

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