EVERY year since John dug out a pond in a muddy field, geese have nested on the little island that he left in the middle of the water. It represents a safe haven from foxes and inhabited to successfully raise a clutch of eggs each year.

The unassailable siting of this nest was in sharp contrast to a goose nest we stumbled on by the side of a field where we walk the dogs. The dogs benefit from John’s daily check on his pheasant feeders. We load the dogs into a cage on the back of the gator and then, once we are off the road and well inland, they can enjoy some exercise with no chance of meeting up with anyone.

Trotting along a field boundary Moss, our spaniel, had suddenly dived into the undergrowth. A goose exploded out of the grass honking with alarm. Moss did not follow the distraught goose, but instead her tail blurred with excitement. Close behind John parted the grasses to discover a down-lined nest containing seven large white eggs.

“Come on,” John said, “If we walk away the goose should come back. But I don’t think she’s made it in a very safe place. A fox could easily discover it.”

So we walked away, dragging Moss and Millie, our equally excited terrier. The goose’s distress gradually subsided and we watched her walk back to her nest and settle back.

Two days later, walking the dogs in another field, we spotted the pair of geese who nest on the island, walking in the middle of an adjoining field. In previous years, once the eggs have hatched, they take their goslings off to a pond in a field on another farm. These geese are quite distinctive as they are a mismatched pair. She is a Greylag and he is a Canada goose. Their hybrid offspring frequently return to the pond.

Dashing back to the Gator and loading the dogs up, we were able to get close enough to the pair to spot that they were ushering six or seven goslings through the grass. The pair were so used to the Gator that they and their offspring showed no sign of distress at our approach.

But while one family has been reared successfully, not such good news on the other nest. No sign of Mother Goose and no sign of her eggs either when we checked a few days later. An empty nest. No discarded eggs where goslings may have hatched. Plenty of signs of disturbance though and a rank smell of fox.