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The Meaning of Geese: A Thousand Miles in Search of Home

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Stuck at home with no work and no people, I got on my mother's 40-year-old bicycle and followed Norfolk's thrilling flocks of pink-footed and brent geese.

To honour the geese’s great athletic migrations, Nick kept a diary of his sightings as well as the stories he discovered through the community of people, past and present, who loved them, too.The lovely people at Chelsea Green Publishing sent me an advanced copy and I've been savouring it over the past few weeks. The Covid-19 lockdowns spawned a number of nature books in the UK and, although the pandemic is not a major element here, one does get a sense of how Acheson struggled with isolation as well as the normal winter blues and found comfort and purpose in birdwatching.

This diary of that time is quite beautiful in its detail of the pink-foot, brent and snow geese he watches from the edge of fields.I would have welcomed more autobiographical material, and Wintering by Stephen Rutt seems the more suitable geese book for laymen. At the risk of reviewing the book I wanted to read rather than the book it is; The Meaning of Geese is billed on the cover as a personal account, but I felt no closer to the author by the final chapter than I had at the start. To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. in environmental change and management, both at the University of Oxford, Nick travelled to Bolivia for three months, to participate in a study of austral migrant birds.

Nick has through his knowledge, passion and detailed descriptions put a winter visit firmly back onto the agenda. Ten years later he came home from this three-month stint, having worked in nature conservation and sustainable development the length and breadth of Bolivia, across South America, and in Australia and India. He is a committed campaigner on the environment, living as sustainably as is possible and contributing to a number of environmental initiatives, including Low Carbon Birding.As an adult he migrated away to Bolivia to work in conservation for a decade until on a trip back he saw a brent and took it as a sign to continue the good work at home. He is never happier than when reading Shakespeare or listening to Bach in his garden, embraced by the happy hum of wool carder bees and Willughby's leafcutters. He meticulously details the geese's arrival, observing what they mean to his beloved Norfolk and the role they play in local people's lives—and what role the birds could play in our changing world.

Greeted by tuts and sarcastic eye-rolls, he set the bar a little higher and off we went to gawp at feathered friends through binoculars. For a number of years he has written columns for the Norfolk Magazine and for Norfolk Wildlife Trust's Tern magazine, of which he is editor. I saw Nick Acheson speak at New Networks for Nature 2021 as the ‘anti-’ voice in a debate on ecotourism.As two Sherpas ponder what to do next, their predicament triggers Daniell’s brilliantly tangential excursions into their state of mind, personal histories and aspirations. Birds continue to arrive in the UK from more northerly regions to spend the next few months here in our warmer winters, before.

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