Wagtail Dance – the making of the film

Jason // May 30 // 11 Comments

A cool breeze swept in from the east, rippling the skin of the trout pools , ruffling the hair of riverside willows. Deep down the valley a lone Oystercatcher piped his melancholy salute before following his bright orange beak skywards. Behind this lifescape was layered the drift of a distant Cuckoo, announcing his arrival and sounding a warning to the moor edge Meadow Pipits.

Unseen to all but the keenest eyes was The Rise of the Mayfly. A dance by those who choose to hatch en masse as the sun mustered his energy and pierced the wind. As if is reply to this magical symphony of nature the Pied Wagtail couple began their own dance with the rocks, the water and the tousled air between the arching trees. This was a dance that has been followed for ever. The pair mirrored the steps of innumerable generations before them who too had pirouetted in the footsteps of their ancestors.

There wasn’t a moment to waste as hungry mouths gaped in the nearby nest, hidden from the prying noses of passing weasels, stoat and mink. Working together, keeping time with the music of the light, they sashayed circles across the waters, glancing from rock to rock and launching in a secret choreograph to catch soaring Stoneflies. Not much escaped these two.

Again and again they would flounce downstream harvesting beakfuls of bounty to sate their hungry offspring. All afternoon they danced, tireless, right into the cooling of the day. As Sparrowhawk arrowed through the valley in search of supper for her own young they waltzed to their shelter spots in the overgrown bank, biding their time before returning to their music.

Overhead a Nuthatch couple worked ceaselessly to rear their next kin, foraging for caterpillars in the young oaks and flies that flowed from the riverbed. They held their own secret ritual high in the dragon oak, surrounded by strangely patterned imprints, hammering and drilling their catch into predesigned hollows. Youngsters called, impatient for their next morsel.

Still the Wagtails hopped, skipped and jumped down the river, joined occasionally by a Grey Wagtail pair who’s newly fledged daughter saw no reason to hurry. She was still soft around the edges, not quite here yet not quite there, her colours pastel bright against the tawny rocks, but nonetheless merging effortlessly with the life around her. Her mind like water, she was becoming familiar with her life calling of tail wagging.

As night drew her cloak and stole the rising light their communal ‘chi-sek, chi-sek’ echoed from the moon shadows that hid all kinds of wonderful wild things.

Mystery of the Nuthatch

Why is he hammering the caterpillars into a pre-drilled hole?

What is the dance he's doing as his mate arrives?

What are those patterns top right of the video?

If you'd like to see more of my Pied Wagtail images click this link to go to my main portfolio site.

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  • Love your chosen words, so descriptive and fluent. Loved the first video and then this added bonus too. Thank you For creating this masterpiece with perfect music too.

  • Wagtails are comical little birds 🤣 I looked up why nuthatches hide food, it is for winter nourishment but you perhaps know that now.

    • They are real bundles of personality aren’t they! I thought that was the case too, however it had a beakful of freshly caught insects which surely would not keep ’til winter. They were also busy feeding a nest-ful of chicks.

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    About the Author Jason

    Jason follows his lifelong vocation as a countryside photographer who tries to catch the spirit of the places he visits. After decades working as a professional editorial photographer he now focuses much of his time on conceptual fine art photography, visual storytelling and in aiding others to follow their creative calling.