It’s that time of year again, folks. The time when grown-ass men and women cower on street corners at the mercy of a monochromatic avian terror. It’s magpie season, bitches. In honor of this fact I have decided to share with you my origin story, because the two things are related, believe it or not. Australian magpies are a special kind of crazy. If you come within two kilometres of a nest, you are a threat, and threats get dive bombed, scratched and slashed. They don’t pause to politely ask your intent. Oh no. They swoop first and ask questions later, by which time they have your scalp as a hostage, and you can’t answer their questions because your mouth is full of your own blood. Magpie season directly correlates with a spike in the number of stitches administered in Emergency Departments, as well as a surge in toupee sales. But I digress.
About twelve months ago, on a beautiful Spring day, Peachy and me decided to take a walk through our suburb, a place rendered infinitely less stabby by the warm sunlight and hypercolour cherry blossoms. We wandered around for about half an hour, but eventually turned back, newly possessed of the knowledge that sunshine and flowers can only really do so much (specifically, after we’d seen three garden-dwelling syringes.) On the return trip, we noticed a small magpie sitting on the same patch of nature strip that it had been when we’d passed it earlier. Peachy tried to convince me that it must just be a very lazy bird, and I wanted to agree with her, so I took a few steps towards it, hoping that it would fly away. I was heartily disappointed when it stood up and took only two very wobbly steps towards the road before overbalancing and toppling onto its side. Aw, I thought, poor lil’ thing. We figured that it must have fallen from the large, nearby tree and done itself some kind of injury. I remembered that we’d passed a veterinary clinic, somewhere between the second and third syringes, and convinced a reluctant Peachy to trek back to it with me to see if there was anything to be done. The vet was busy, but his assistant donated a towel to the noble cause and promised to take a look at the magpie should we successfully capture it.
Peachy was mostly supportive of my quest, but wasn’t really feeling the whole ‘rescue the injured baby bird’ mentality, openly wondering if it wouldn’t just get better on its own.
“Peachy, please,” I said, “how many magpies have you met that went on to tell you about their spontaneous childhood recovery from a gravity-induced injury in a suburban cul-de-sac? None? I thought so.”
She acquiesced, probably reasoning that catching a magpie is, if nothing else, some seriously effective procrastination.
We returned to find it still hunched forlornly at the roadside. I moved towards it, towel at the ready, trying to look as non-threatening as possible. It screamed at me. Kids today, honestly. No gratitude. I threw the towel over it and moved to scoop it up. The next thing I knew, a spiky, winged football had slammed into the back of my head so hard that I saw through space and time. Still standing, and with a furious baby magpie safely wrapped in the towel, I staggered back to where Peachy was standing, aghast.
“Oh my god, you got it! Are you–” She never finished that sentence. Her mouth dropped open and she pointed wildly over my shoulder. The next words out of her mouth were: “It’s an ambush! SCATTER!” She then bolted 100 metres and executed a near perfect combat roll into a bank of (blessedly syringe-free) shrubbery. (I don’t have a lot of experience judging combat rolls, but the magpies left no other witnesses so you’ll just have to take my word for it.) Still clutching the lightly swaddled baby bird, I strategically ran off in the opposite direction. Ha ha! You can’t chase us both! I now know that if there is more than one adult magpie, which indeed there was, they can and they will.
At long last, we shook off our attackers and regrouped. Peachy generously made sure that the back of my skull was still attached, and we proceeded back to the vet. We sat in the waiting room and tried not to think about how unusually still the magpie was. It had stopped screeching and wriggling, it was completely still. I experienced a moment of absolute dread. The bloody thing has gone toes up. Hell, it’d already dropped off it’s perch today, this is just the logical conclusion. Thankfully, before I was forced to accept that I’d risked my life for nothing, the vet relieved me of my burden, at which point it promptly went apeshit.
The vet thanked us and gave his prognosis, “I’ll be honest with you, girls: usually we have to euthanise them.”
“Right. Being ‘honest with us fifteen minutes ago would have been too much to ask, wouldn’t it? Of course it would.” My head was swimming. “Look, I know you usually look after critters, but what do you know about concussions? Should I be able to see such a broad spectrum of colours on this wall?”
Magpie season is a dangerous time of year. As a survivor and a thriver, I really only have one piece of advice. Do not take pity on a magpie’s injured young. Admiral Ackbar was 100% on this one.
When Peachy and I were putting together this blog, we decided to choose pseudonyms, partly for privacy’s sake (but mostly for shits and giggles.) Peachy’s name was quickly inspired by the thick, translucent fuzz all over her face (Kidding! She’s had heaps of laser treatment, she looks totally normal now,) while I took ages to decide on ‘Magpie.’ When I finally did, it was because I wanted to honour that (probably) long euthanised infant bird and its crazy aggressive kin. Well, a little. It had a lost to do with the fact that I also think it sounds like a really cool superhero name. Magpie. The Magpie. Swooping down an kicking butt, crushing evil with dive bombs of creativity and arbitrary punctuation, one sporadic blog post at a time.