Wild goose chase, migration and being seasonal

Recently I went on a wild goose chase. On a bicycle.

Drawing of geese

It actually wasn’t as silly as it sounds. Several migratory bird species come to the area where I live every autumn to spend their winter here, where it’s a lot warmer than where they come from. A festival is held in early October to celebrate their return and to educate, entertain and inspire people about them and nature. Locally the area is a seasonal home to mainly pink footed geese from Iceland and barnacle geese from Svalbard from around September to April.

I love seeing them fly over in V formations, honking loudly, but don’t know much about them. This year one of the events in the programme was an organised bike ride from Dumfries to Caerlaverock wetland centre (run by the WWT) to see them, and learn about them and other wildlife on the way – this was the “wild goose chase”!

Tarmac path in park

The start of the wild goose chase in Dock Park. Yes, it was a bit drizzly but soon cleared up.

Due to Covid-19 we set off in small groups of 6 people, each with a wildlife expert and a member of Cycling Dumfries to keep us organised. It’s 10 miles to Caerlaverock along a mainly flat road as it follows the river Nith down to the Solway estuary where the wetland centre is. On the way we stopped to look at some goosander, some barnacle geese grazing in a field by the side of the road, and also to admire the skeins of geese flying over us.

Geese flying in sky

If you look closely there’s a skein of geese in the sky

On arrival at the wetland centre we were rewarded with refreshments and then rode down to the reserve hide to see some more geese. The large expanse of estuary, marsh, merse, mudflats and shoreline is home to lots of wildlife and I spotted some roe deer. This area is a haven for the two main types of geese I mentioned. They travel thousands of miles to get here, and return in the spring to the Arctic where they breed and hatch.

They live seasonally.

Marshland and sky

Solway estaury looking south west-ish towards England

Living seasonally

This got me thinking about how we are often very far removed from seasonal living. This can be a good thing of course, with electricity giving us heat and light all year round. But being out of step with our local seasons isn’t always the best for us or the planet. We can see this in supermarket fresh fruit and vegetable sections: should we really be importing asparagus from Peru in the UK winter time? Seasonal UK foods for the autumn and winter are root vegetables which make hearty stews, soups and can be roasted and baked. These are the sorts of dishes that are good at this time of year. Lightly steamed asparagus is ideal in the UK summer. We’ve got used to having access to all foods all the time, but is this the best for people and the planet? Much of Ayurveda is based on adapting to the seasons and our changing constitutions, including with what we eat.

The clocks have just changed here too. I’m fortunate in that I changed my life a couple of years ago so no longer work in an office and instead work for myself. I very rarely set an alarm these days, and wake naturally according to the daylight. This still feels like a luxury! By winter I find myself sleeping longer and later, but in the summer I wake before 5am. If it’s dark when we go to work and dark when we get back it can affect our health and wellbeing, with some people suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

With your yoga practice, you might find that you adapt seasonally. Maybe you want more energetic practices and postures when it’s spring and summer, and then want more restorative, grounding and quietening sequences in autumn and winter. Although as humans we don’t hibernate, as we slide into winter you might want to consider doing a bit less, or adapt your yoga, wake nearer to sunrise time if possible, and adapt eating and cooking to be more in tune with seasonal produce, maximising the benefits from the nutrients and reducing food miles. You may have other ways that you adapt your life seasonally. Small adjustments can make a big difference.

Luckily for us we don’t have to migrate 2000 miles for suitable winter conditions. So anything less than that which we can do to adapt to changing seasons is a bonus!

Chalk drawn geese on pavement

The geese are coming! Dumfries decorates the streets to welcome its seasonal visitors from 2000+ miles away.

One thought on “Wild goose chase, migration and being seasonal

  1. Dear Alyson, I’ve been meaning to write to you for ages to tell you how much I enjoy your blog.  It was lovely to be reminded of Caerlaverock after spending a wonderful afternoon there a few years ago on the way to Wigtown for a holiday.  I love to think of all the geese arriving there at this time of year. I seem to remember that the Indian Bar-headed Goose or Hamsa is a symbol of the Atman, so that’s another connection with migrating geese. 

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