It’s beautifully written, and a real pleasure to read.
(My copy will be back in Lancaster library next week, but click on the picture if you want to see it at Amazon)
In one passage in the book he describes the work of a biologist, Bernd Heinrich who observed ravens by dragging carcasses into the hills and then sleeping beside them.
He was surprised to discover that the ravens were using a ‘yelling’ call to summon more of their own kind to share in the bounty.
After many years of study, hypothesising and contemplation he finally concluded that:
The yelling, feeding mobs are juveniles, doing what all young creatures do when they have time on their hands: forming gangs, looking for pick-ups, showing off, making friends, seeking status, having fun.
Mabey is interested too in the daredevil antics of swifts. Later, he describes a dance performed by cranes. Perhaps, he suggests, not all animal activity fits neatly into a Darwinian model of the struggle to survive and reproduce.
I mention this because the behaviour of the great tits that we saw seems in retrospect more like boisterous rough and tumble than the wary and ruthless acts of genuine combatants.