Sunday, 12 July 2009

Battle of the Skies

On a warm Sunday afternoon recently I was sitting quietly in my garden doing nothing in particular, when I began to notice, on my right, some insects flying up from somewhere near the ground. They flew up at intermittent intervals, five or six of them at a time, but frequently enough to make me realise something special was happening.

Just as I stood up to go and look more closely, the air above my head was suddenly dark with what felt like every swift, swallow and housemartin in the area, swooping and diving so rapidly through the long narrow space of my garden that I could feel the rush of displaced air.

The insects were flying ants, and they were a real bonanza for all these hirondines: I sat down to watch and as the ants flew up, the birds would arrow in so fast and snatch them, turning back to fly through again. It was like watching a dog-fight from some film of World War Two. The sound of wings, the blacking out of the air space above my head, and every now and then I heard the tiny Snick! as beak met ant. It was amazing.

One of those moments that only come on rare occasions, a treasured moment of insight into how wild things live. Or don't, in the case of the ants...

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