A mat­ing com­edy to be en­joyed with coffee

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

WHILE go­ing to your lo­cal wilder­ness to watch birds and mam­mals is a lovely way to spend the day, there are eas­ier ways to spot wildlife.

I was sit­ting in one of our na­tional coffee ‘chain stores’ on a retail park and spent a de­light­ful 20 min­utes watch­ing pied wag­tails per­form­ing mat­ing dis­plays.

This was funny on two counts. ‘Funny pe­cu­liar’ be­cause Fe­bru­ary is a bit too early for randy wag­tails. And ‘funny ha ha’ be­cause there was a strong wind and the as the males leapt in the air to at­tract the fe­male’s at­ten­tion, they were caught by a gust and blown about 10 feet fur­ther than they ex­pected. There is noth­ing like the look of sur­prise on a pied wag­tail’s face. The area I was talk­ing about is one I have men­tioned be­fore where up to 500 pied wag­tails can be seen crowd­ing to­gether for warmth in a cou­ple of trees on the retail park. I did see at least eight or nine of the birds on this visit.

You can’t miss th­ese birds mainly be­cause they bob up and down in front of you – dat­ing back to days when their an­ces­tors had to dip to avoid the wa­ter in rivers as they searched for in­sects. That long tail added some bal­ance. I al­ways find it amaz­ing that an­i­mals re­tain th­ese amaz­ing in­stincts long af­ter they are of any use. My ter­rier, for in­stance, will chase a ball at full pelt be­fore ‘bounc­ing’ when it comes along­side. This change of move­ment was ob­vi­ously a way of pre­par­ing to pounce on prey, like rab­bits.

The wag­tail just looks cute nowa­days and, added to its mark­ings, it is a truly beau­ti­ful bird. It has a mainly black back, wings and crown with a white fore­head, cheeks and belly. The fe­male has grey sides but is still pretty.

I al­ways find it dif­fi­cult to de­scribe bird­song, and ex­perts says pied wag­tails let out a ‘chissick’ sound.

That is rub­bish, it’s more like a slow twit­ter­ing added to the kind of sound you make when you suck your cheeks in and try to make a squeak­ing noise.

●● The pied wag­tail – a reg­u­lar in car parks and play­grounds

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