A mating comedy to be enjoyed with coffee
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