I know that bird! Without even seeing it properly, I know its behaviour. It’s a Spotted Flycatcher:
It’s hidden behind a largish branch. If only I could see it properly.
I’ve seen one in Italy before and photographed it. That one was behind a twig. I was finally able to compare it to a drawing I made of a Spotted Flycatcher in my childhood nature notebooks:
There are annoying branches and annoying branches, and this is a particularly annoying branch. Don’t you think?
Spotted Flycatchers have rictal bristles around their beaks. The bristles are probably very sensitive but their precise use remains a mystery. I wonder whether they are sensitive to movements of air caused by their insect prey? I think seals can use their bristles to sense the vortices of the water caused by fish swimming ahead and use them to hunt down and capture their prey. I like to think of the world slowed down to a crawl and the movement of air under a fly’s wings causing whirlpools in the thick, fluid air, sensed by minute changes in Flycatcher bristles to redirect them to snap up their prey. Birds live far faster than we do. I’ve recently been filming some birds at 120 frames per second and slowing them down to a quarter of their normal speed. Their movements finally look human when I do that.
I see it fly off to another perch in another tree in Villa Pamphilj in Rome.
I move slowly towards it and get… another photo of it behind a branch:
It’s flying from a high perch, catching an insect mid-flight and then returning to the same or a different perch. Finally I get a distant photo without a branch in the way.
It’s such a smart bird I’m delighted to have spent some time with it. In the UK there’s been an 89 per cent decrease in Spotted Flycatchers between 1967 and 2012.
Destruction of habitat, industrial farming and climate destruction are to blame for the loss of much of our wildlife. I hope that delight and wonder at the natural world will increase to a critical level so that the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth becomes more important than the FTSE100 Index. I’m not holding my breath.