We had never really had problems in our neighbourhood with magpies.
For those of you who are maybe not from Australia, or if you live in the inner suburbs of one of our major cities, Magpies are a largish black and white bird. Around nesting time they have the habit of “dive bombing” anyone who ventures near their nests. They have been known to cause some rather nasty injuries to people’s scalps and necks. They normally attack from behind and so the first warning you usually get is when they hit you, or swoop past in a near miss.
Anyway. I was recently setting off down the backyard, garden spade in hand, to transplant some small bushes that were in the way of a path that I was constructing, when, without warning, something heavy and sharp hit me in the back of my head.
As I dropped the spade, fell to the ground grasping my head, the first thing that I thought of was that I had been hit by a falling branch from a tree. Then I saw it, turning and swooping back for a second attack. It was just a blur of black and white as it hurtled past mere inches from my head. It only missed because I had ducked and covered my head with my arms.
I am not a coward. I had even stood up to Billy the Basher years ago at school when he had tried to steal my lunch money. But, I have to admit that as the bird turned for another attack I took the opportunity to run like hell to the protection of the back veranda.
Safely back inside, my wife administered first aid, but only after she had recovered from her fit of laughter at my description of what I thought of as a vicious attack.
Standing at the back sliding door, a large plaster on the back of my head over what my wife described as, “a tiny scratch”, cup of coffee in hand, which I had had to make myself, I watched the magpie as it preened itself on a branch near the rotary clothes line. My wife walked past and said, “You had better not go out again or that big mean bird will get you.” After which she fell about laughing again.
Well that did it. I was not about to let a bird get the better of me. So armed with a large sun hat, borrowed from my wife’s wardrobe, and my wife’s tennis racquet I walked boldly out into the yard. The bird was nowhere to be seen. I walked around for a few minutes feeling like a right goose until my neighbour spotted me and called over the fence, “My mother is looking for a doubles partner for the ladies day next Wednesday.” I considered trying to explain but thought better of it and again fled back inside.
The next morning, completely forgetting about the bird, I wandered out before breakfast to retrieve the Sunday paper from the front lawn. I had only taken about a dozen steps when I caught sight of the magpie out of the corner of my eye. He was heading straight for me at full speed. I ducked and retreated inside.
During that day I tried all the remedies that I had heard off. Wearing your sunglasses on the back of your head to confuse the bird, making loud noises to scare it off, trying to chase it with the hose. I even considered borrowing a gun to shoot it. Nothing at all worked. I resorted to the tennis racquet again, but the damn bird must be psychic as every time I went out with the racquet it was nowhere to be seen.
The most galling moment came late in the afternoon when my wife went out to hang some clothes on the line. The bird just sat on its branch and watched her. It made no attempt at all to scare her off. Well after that I had to retire to my den, as she was full off advice as to why the bird just hated me and not her and, wanted to know what had I done to make it mad at me.
Next morning as I was backing the car out of the garage I saw the magpie in the rear vision mirror it was laying on the road. As I watched it tried to fly away but there was obviously something wrong. One wing was dragging on the ground and appeared to be broken. My first reaction was one of triumph. Someone had hit it with a car and it would not bother me any more. Then as I drove out onto the road beside it my feelings changed to one of sadness as I watched it trying to fly. I stopped the car and watched. After a few more futile attempts the magpie gave up and just sat on the road looking at me.
We must have stared at each other for some time as my wife came out to see why I was stopped in the middle of the road. She saw the bird and ran back inside to get a towel so she could pick it up off the road.
Well! To cut a long story short the magpie spent some time recovering in our garage being nursed by my wife. This was after an exorbitant bill from the vet who set its wing and gave it some medicine that cost more than my blood pressure pills.
I was not allowed to put the car in the garage as I might let the bird out. I reluctantly went along with this until one night when I came home in pouring rain. The only reaction from my wife when I complained bitterly was to tell me to take off my wet clothes in the entry hall so I would not drip water on the carpet.
Eventually the bird was well again and able to fly. I thought that at last we would be rid of it.
Well! Foolish me!
It knew when it was on a good thing and took up permanent residence in our back yard. At night it would roost on the back of my favourite chair on the back patio and each morning would leave me a little present on the seat.
I can hear you asking, “Did it attack me again?”
The answer is no. As they say peace was never declared but a shaky truce was worked out. Even though it would eat out of my wife’s hand and all the neighbourhood children’s I could not approach it and it always gave me a wide berth when flying around the yard.