The Clerk in the Country

Friday 30th July 2021

Reflections of a Wagtail

Birds learn fast.  My Pied Wagtail neighbour memorised within minutes the location of his supposed rivals, as he toured his territory attacking his own reflection wherever he spotted it.  The demands of fatherhood (or frequent recalls to duty from Mrs Wagtail) curbed his zeal but I did see him, in a remarkable example of male multi-tasking, pause on his way to the nest with a large moth in his beak to flutter at the porch window.  (Mrs Wagtail must not have been looking.)

Not only did he attack his reflection in my car wing mirrors but by association raced after any vehicle which drove onto the premises, and dealt firmly with its mirrors even if they were folded in or covered over with no reflection visible.  It would, I think, be wrong to see this as a sign of lesser intelligence, but perhaps the contrary.  Which of us after all has never “tilted at a windmill” or mistaken a reflection for a reality?

Since the chicks have fledged, the pair of Wagtails has disappeared.  I suspect Mrs Wagtail insisted on a move to somewhere less crowded with Wagmirrors and Wingtails.