Assault on the River Ariège

I’m not saying that the action on the pretty bend in the river Ariège resembles the Assault on Precinct 13, but the blackbirds are for a few days in mid April at each others throats all day; the chases are endless and dust-ups frequent. There are perhaps five territories all vying for the bushes, the potagers and the closely mown lawns, and the river is a sort of no-man’s land across which endless sorties are launched, especially by the males; it’s entertaining and unscripted aggression. The only pause is when the wrens chatter loudly, the wagtails suddenly fly up into the trees and a goshawk powers down the river checking the action, a few minutes later coming back up low and fast before disappearing under the canopy of trees.

The river provides a rich food supply for dippers and grey wagtails and for an assortment of birds that all behave like flycatchers and sally forth with varying degrees of elegance from the riverside trees for the emerging lacewings. For a day or so, there are up to three chiffchaffs, a pair of blackcaps and male back redstart; all fly out to mid stream and twist and and hover to grab the insects. On a grey day, the swallows and crag martins appear to hunt up and down the outside bend in the river, presumably where the insects are sheltering under the trees. The river is non-stop action.

The grey wagtails nest in a retaining wall by the road and the pied wagtails on a section of wall under a high eave where the builder ran out of stones or enthusiasm or both. The female I’m guessing is on eggs, as she spends considerable time preening herself, like the star that she is, on her favourite rock on the river.

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