John Woodhouse: Feathered friends are leading village on a wild goose chase
THERE'S a waddling epidemic in Madeley. Villagers should not reproach themselves – it's nothing to do with the obesity crisis. There's been an explosion in the geese population.
Canada geese have taken over the village pond in a manner not dissimilar to a Club 18-30 party disgorging into a hotel pool in Benidorm. Indeed, their behaviour is comparable – among their less pleasant habits is toileting themselves on pave- ments. Although, to be fair, the geese in Madeley draw the line at playing pass the banana in public.
If the flock were to stay put at the pond then most feel it wouldn't be a problem. However, they have a habit of wandering into the village itself. Last week three diverted a shopkeeper while another escaped with a Warburtons toast loaf.
There have been motoring issues too. Geese are notoriously ignorant of the highway code. They simply refuse to give way to the left at junctions.
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Action is now being taken to apply a paraffin coating to eggs to stop further births in the next breeding season. If it works it'll be extended to anyone who's appeared on The Only Way Is Essex.
Canada geese seem to enjoy North Staffordshire. In Stoke-on-Trent alone, more than 11,000 have been culled in council-run parks in just two years. It sounds excessive but the authority has saved thousands at the civic offices by replacing biros with quills.
More than 9,000 eggs were removed from nests, while 1,929 geese were shot. The options at the staff canteen have been limited for quite some time.
Nationally, it's estimated around 190,000 Canada geese spend the winter in Britain. The BNP are up in arms about it – getting all the best nests, eating our crumbs, etc.
A good proportion of them seem to land up round here, although quite what the attraction of this area is to a Canada goose is unclear. Personally, I see few similarities with North America. While the boating lake at Hanley Park undoubtedly has a certain majesty, rare is it that it's compared to Niagara Falls.
Before their feeding grounds were replaced with call sheds, there used to be a good number at Festival Park. They were welcome to see, not least because their droppings used to erode the paint on the boy racers' cars.
My guess is that Britain appeals to the Canada goose over, say, France, because here they know we'll chuck them a couple of slices of bread rather than try to stick them between them. It's sad but true that many of our European cousins still see the village pond as a viable alternative to Morrisons.
While generally in favour of the Canada goose, my main gripe with it is it can be rather threatening. Get too near to one and you're liable to end up like Michael Parkinson did with Emu. I imagine there are many parents in the Madeley region who enjoy taking their children to feed the geese. It's just sad they have to do so clad in full body armour and a motorcycle helmet.
However, I expect the majority of people in Madeley are revelling in their good fortune. In these days when the Earth's wildlife is being decimated, they have this visually mesmerising bird, right up there with the pigeon, laid before them on their doorstep. That's worth a lot and is why where we live we're chipping together to buy a cheetah for the playing fields.
My expectation is that with its burgeoning reputation for wildlife, Springwatch will come direct from Madeley pond next year. If so, expect a breakaway colony to form in Kate Humble's hair.