IN periods of heavy rainfall such as we had recently, a puddle forms on the water meadow behind the willow tree at the bottom of our garden.

It’s what the meadows were designed for, holding water and maintaining grazing on land that’s prone to flood.

It’s a small puddle, just four or five feet in diameter, barely roomy enough, you’d think, for a pair of ducks.

Yet on that puddle, half a dozen hormone-fuelled male mallards stage a constant war for dominance, pecking and thrashing about, chasing each other off down the field, while a lone female sits to one side on the grass, observing their antics.

It’s impossible to tell whether she’s impressed.

We’ve been watching with amusement. Nothing ever seems to get settled by all this aggression, as they’re all back on their watery battleground again the following morning.

There’s a whole river they could be swimming contentedly on, and a network of fields with more than enough space – and puddles - for all of them.

Yet they don’t seem to see it. All that matters to them is that tiny territory that’s destined to disappear when the sun comes out.

Can you see where I’m going with this one?

When I watch the news, with its daily diet of destruction in war zones across the world, wars that never seem to get anywhere, with participants too pig-headed to look up and appreciate the wonderful world around them, content to pound it to smithereens with their heavy weaponry, it strikes me that humanity might be a lot cleverer than a bunch of ducks, but it isn’t much wiser.

  • On the subject of birds, thanks to fellow-columnist Tom Bromley’s recommendation, I went to the Arts Centre on Friday, where they were flying up and down the aisle in a display staged by handlers Lloyd and Rose Buck.

I was enthralled by the couple’s bond with their feathered family, including Winterwatch star Brann the raven.

But their seven sociable little starlings were my particular darlings, as they swooped to perch among us.

The couple, who illustrated their talk with film showing how they create those remarkable close-up avian encounters for David Attenborough and Chris Packham, are so clearly in love with each other, and with what they do.

You might envy them their luck, but when you realise that looking after their charges keeps them fully occupied 365 days a year, you recognise the truth of the old adage: the harder I work, the luckier I get.

This lovely building was the ideal venue for an event that appealed to all ages, and it reminded me that we need to treasure it as our city’s arts organisations come to terms with the merger forced on them by funding cuts.