11 May 2020

As I’m ironing in the living room, two soft bangs in quick succession against the barn window. The unmistakeable sound of birds flying into glass. I rush over to see if there are any fatalities. Not yet…

Two male chaffinches are beating the shit out of each other. Really violent stuff: no pecks barred. Claws and feathers fly. One gains the upper hand—the _upper beak_—pinning his opponent to the ground, and stabbing mercilessly with his beak. The loser somehow breaks free and flies off through the shrubs, the victor still in hot pursuit.

Darwinian sexual selection in action on my very own patio.

Later, as I stand at the open patio door, admiring the view, taking a break from writing, a blur shoots past, loops around the still-flowering cherry tree, and soars up over the house, passing within three metres of me. My first swift of the summer! I punch the air. It’s like something out of a Ted Hughes poem.

Richard Carter is a writer and photo­grapher living in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks
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…wonderful. Science and history and geography and evolution and culture all tangled up in musings while walking about the moors around Hebden Bridge.”—PZ Myers
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