| The intoxicated world of the spotted flycatcher|
|Spotted flycatchers have commandeered the fence this year. Darting from shadows behind the hedge; landing on a post or wire; pausing to watch for a target; looping out into the field to land back on a further post; launching to snatch an insect on the wing with a blur and then back into the shadows. The spotted flycatchers have learned they have a speed and agility beyond the comprehension of walkers along the fence. They have the confidence now to hunt even while people and dogs are about. Sheep in the field bring more flies and the jackdaws are too slow and otherwise engaged to bother.|
The flycatcher sprites appear flitting from post to post along the field's length as you walk beside the fence. They stay a couple of posts ahead, luring you closer and closer, until they flick to the next post or wire. When you get to the kissing gate at the end of the field they vanish. But if you look the way you've come, you'll see them on fence posts behind you going back to the far end. It's a game. However, with a 70% drop in population since the 1960s, climate change, farming changes, a lack of insects and problems crossing the drought-ridden Sahel on migration, the flycatchers' game is deadly serious.
With their grey-browns and faint dotted lines, they are often described as dull-looking birds, as if that makes them less interesting. But like many of the insects they catch and the landscape they inhabit, subtlety has a greater beauty and their aerial hunting dance is astonishing to watch. We, the lumbering pedestrians along the fence path, are enchanted and find ourselves drawn into it. Spotted flycatcher world is intoxicated by the scent of honeysuckle and the flush of dog roses. We hope the insects they snip from the air with those pencil-sharp beaks are feeding a brood that will also return to the fence.