Monday, 23 March 2009

Thieving Magpies

Mrs Collared Dove is still perched on her rather ramshackle nest in the holly tree. Every time I look in her direction her dark eyes are fixed on me. Even at night, when I switch on the outside light to go into the garden, there she sits, still watchful. I had never seen her off her nest until today when she and her mate were chasing off two Magpies. Doubtless they were hoping to go to work on an egg (though not one with a little lion on it!) Mrs C-D settled back quickly but I fear there will be other attempts on her brood.

I love Magpies in their smart attire, so confident and intelligent, the showmen of the crow family. They come to the pond to drink, to feed on fish food and, later on, newly emerged tadpoles. They teeter like tightrope walkers on the hanging bird feeders, their long tails balancing them. They chatter and creak in the sun-dappled trees and gather in noisy convocation. They never fail to make me smile as they swagger about importantly looking for all the world as if they're 'walking the estate.' They are elegant, eye-catching clowns with bright alert dark eyes but when one of their young is kidnapped by a passing crow all the Magpies around – parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and relations - create a deafening cacophony that continues for hours.

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