I have a six year old daughter who doesn’t miss a trick. Acutely aware of the world around her, she notices things that more often than not passes me by.
Constantly asking questions, like kids do. Sometimes tactfully, sometimes bluntly. But always curious. Always questions. Sometimes, instead of asking questions, she points out things to me. Suddenly our roles are reversed, as she invites me into her place of imagining and I get to see just how the world looks to her.
I took her to school this morning, and she noticed yet another sign of winter handing over the reins to spring.
“They’ve gone Dad.”
“The geese-they’ve gone.”
Automatically I looked towards the school fields. She was right, the fields lay empty and still, when recently the running lanes of endless personal triumphs had been agog with a gaggle.
I don’t even know if that makes sense. Agog with a gaggle.
But anyhow, there had been a couple of dozen of noisily honking Canada Geese, competing note for note with the din of the playground.
From a distance the children would be delightedly curious, but up close they would soon be intimidated.
“Watch it doesn’t bite you,” one concerned mother had warned. Do geese bite? Or just peck? Either way, these birds had attitude, and the children wisely would back away once issued with a warning hiss. From the geese, that is, not the mothers.
“I know why they’ve gone,” my daughter said. “It’s called migration.” I looked at her with the astonished look that I often give to this six year old. “But why have they migrationed?”
“Migrated,” I corrected. Not knowing much about Canada Geese, (for all I knew they could be residents here and not migrants,) but expected to be the font of all wisdom, I decided to wing it. No pun intended. “I suppose where they come from, up in Scotland maybe, or Iceland….”
“Canada,” she asserted. “That’s why they are called Canada Geese.”
“Erm..okay, perhaps in Canada it gets too cold in the winter. So they fly to your school fields, where it is a bit warmer..”
“It’s freezing in winter”
“Yes, but it is warmer than..”
“Canada,” she finished for me.
“Yes Canada. So they come to your school fields, huddle together to keep nice and warm, feeding happily upon the crisps and butties that all you kids feed to them. Come spring, when the weather warms up, they return back home.” I cut in, beating her to it: “To Canada.”
As we walked towards the school gates she silently mulled this over, and then:
” Dad, I know why they migrate.”
“They come here when it is cold at home. But when it gets warmer, they fly away because they are scared of bees.”
I laughed, “bees?”
“Yes, spring is when all the bugs wake up and the geese are scared of the bees. So instead of staying in the warm, they fly back home.”
Isn’t the logic of children marvellous? The connections they make are delightful and insightful. A logic that wraps itself around my own linear thinking and then tap dances all over it.
Ornithologists and naturalists do all sorts of studies, engaging research into everything from climate change to magnetic fields, to discover all they can about adaptation and the things that birds do to survive. Birds are tagged or chipped in an effort to establish migratory routes, and the hazards that they have to surmount every year flying from and to their natural habitats. Science and technology combine to answer all different questions today about the lives of our wildlife that we previously have only wondered at.
But who is to say that the simplest answers are not actually the right answers?
Geese fly away in spring because they are scared of bees.
Nailed by a six year old.
In your face David Attenborough.
Take that Bill Oddie.