Sunday, November 1, 2009


I have been writing a story for the Sydney Herald which has a column asking for people to submit stories that gets "your blood boiling" - so for a couple of months I've been watching the column, looking at the types of stories, writing styles etc - I figure, yup, I'll give it a shot. Our writing tutor had suggested it as a good avenue to try and get work published as well as practice writing. So I wrote a bit of a story and then today, just as I was about to submit it thought I'd better do a search to see if there were any other stories about my topic. And goddamn it there was! Published the week we were in NZ in September! Now my topic is about magpies and how aggressive they are for a short period each year. there is no room for 2 of these stories each year. One magpie story a year please, is my guess. So I'm parking it. But watch out next September!

So I thought I'd through it on my blog for some light reading....

Eating Humble Mag-Pie

I’ve been living in Australia for three years and each year as the weather warms up, this brings a journey of discovery for what wildlife I will encounter. Whether it be giant cockroaches scurrying across my floor, an ant nest on the inside of my car, the ever present possum that lives ON (not in) my roof and which runs along nightly, or (shudder), the wheelie bin and all the maggot/ant/cockroach delights I’ve experienced putting my rubbish out. But the one wildlife encounter I anticipate and dread each September is the magpie mating and baby magpie season.

This is a time when magpies own the parks, the public walk ways, your back yard, your front yard, or actually any area where there are trees, the potential for worms or unsuspecting heads. Understandably they are simply being protective of their nests and their young families. Some would suggest a little over-protective perhaps.

I love to run and Sydney has some stunning walkways and running tracks. However this is when I seem to be at my most vulnerable, watching for magpie action with every centimetre of my peripheral vision. In fact just recently as I was rounding a bend on a scenic beachside track around Manly, an older BLEEDING man stopped me and warned ‘don’t go that way, there’s a magpie attacking”. “Did it get you?” I asked incredulously and probably rather stupidly as the blood was running down his face by now. His answer; “Three times!”. Of course. As I turned back I warned a little old lady with her poodle who was innocently walking in the same direction. That white poodle might as well have had a target on its back.

Research has shown that magpies can be discriminatory about who they attack, and there is in fact, some form of pre-selection criteria. The Injury Surveillance Information System (ISIS) which collects hospital emergency department records shows that the eye was the birds’ most common target, many of those attacked have been riding a bike at the time and there seemed to be more male victims than female. And of greater concern is that these birds remember their victims and wait for them to come and then attack them over and over again. Postal workers on their motor bikes are a favourite target. We have some very discerning magpies in Australia.

“Wear an ice cream container on your head”, someone once suggested to me in my first year in Australia when as a magpie novice I had only just realise the dangerous, aggressive alter ego of the humble magpie. Now I’m guessing that half of you are laughing and half are nodding in agreement at that suggestion. I haven’t had to resort to it yet.

What I do know is that I have an uneasy truce with the magpie family that has lived in a tree at the front of my house for the last 3 years. I respect their space and need for privacy and they respect my need to get my mail, pick up my newspaper and well, leave my house. We have had no incidents. We share a community, we have an understanding.

It’s just what happens when I leave my property that I worry about.

1 comment:

  1. getting more and more famous, aren't you!