Magpies and Me

Magpies and Me


It happened last weekend. Maybe it’s just my imagination and/or paranoia, but I’ve been taking notice of The Magpies lately and have been suspicious of their movements.

Surely, I thought, it must be a bit early for them to start their psychopathic torrent of hate towards anything that moves within a 100 yard radius of their nest? Surely?

My hope was misguided, for just last Sunday as I was enjoying the marvelous few days of weather that Adelaide has had on my bike, I was confronted.

At first I thought I had hit something with my tyre. You know, that somewhat loud popping sound that happens when you ping a small piece of something out from underneath your tyre. It was weird, though, because I didn’t feel anything through the bike, so I was looking down to see if something had somehow dislodged itself from the bike. Or something.

While I was doing this, focusing on the task at hand, I was to discover where the sound had originated from.

Bloody magpies.

Or, bloody magpie, fortunately. I had conveniently forgotten that the stretch of road we were on is famous for a trio of well-known avian terrorists (come Autumn). The Swamp Road Magpies of Uraidla. They work in teams, I was to be told a minute later, so was glad to have only encountered the one.

I had just stopped to snap a picture and as a consequence was trailing behind my two ride companions for the day, so I was putting in a bit of effort to catch-up before a brute of a climb was to slap us around for a minute.

I recall thinking that something just clipped the back of my helmet, but the sound over-ruled this sensation and I instead focused my investigation on the tyre-region of my bike. Perhaps the magpies are evolving and have now learned how to throw sounds…

The first snap clearly did not have the desired effect, as I was still there, for some reason, only slightly confused. Naturally, a second attack was required. Of course, there’s always a second attack, and usually a third or fourth. Whatever it takes to rid themselves of the red mist.

And so, with a flurry of wings and talons and beaks and tiny, evil, red eyes, I was found out. Reduced to my apparently natural state when confronted by a flying collection of pointy things.

Magpies and Me

Image Australian Magpie (Cantankerous tibicen)

Here’s the thing. Since the moment it dawned on me this year that the magpies would soon be loosing their minds in my general direction, I have been trying to come to terms with this. I have been attending my own internal self-help seminars, psyching myself up for these times, and laying the foundation for a strong, unified response to the Magpie Liberation Front of South Australia.

Sadly, I’m no Tony Robbins.

See, I’m a worst-case thinker. I’ve always, since I was a kid, imagined the worst-case scenario as a distinct possibility. It’s why I’m so popular. Sure, I might live longer than someone less risk-averse, but I’m not exactly going to have a bunch of fun and amazing stories to tell all the grandchildren I definitely won’t have.

Therefore, my fear of magpies isn’t so much the fear of getting swooped, so much as the fear of having my ears clawed off and my eye poked out – which has happened, by the way.

Anyway, back to this Sunday’s ride. I didn’t freak out as much as I could have, but I was most certainly on the defensive, and not at all the cool unit I hope (in vain) to one day be.

With enough faith you can move magpies

Last year there was a magpie who lived in a tree on my way to work in the mornings. After a couple of “incidents” I started to take the next street over to avoid it for a month or two. No big deal. The thing is, though, is that this year I feel the need to be the one in control. I don’t want a bird to tell me where to go. If I were rummaging around in its nest I would understand and oblige, but I’m not (to be clear, I do understand why they do it…).

This week I have been expecting that Magpie to turn up again. They usually hang out in the same areas year after year, and I’m told that they recognize people. So I’ve been telling myself that I will not divert from my route and use it as a training exercise to develop a Zen-like response to their attacks.

Just let it happen. Be calm. Relax. It will all be over soon.

It hasn’t even turned up yet and it’s already winning. I have been repeating encouraging phrases to myself as I passed under the area where it nested. Bracing myself for the inevitable. Flinching at nearly every shadow that flew overhead. And, I can’t be sure if it was real, but I may have been hallucinating the sound of wings flapping just overhead.

I don’t truly believe that I will ever become as cool as a friend of mine who calmly pulled out his phone and selfied a video of a Magpie issuing repeated blows to his helmet as he rode. Actually, I don’t even believe that I’ll ever successfully not be this guy:

Nevertheless, further encounters with our hostile feathered friends are inevitable, and so I am faced with a few different choices.

  1. Hide. For the next three months, no more solo rides, and more indoor trainer. I’m ok when riding with others, which makes no sense at all, but find myself easily talked out of heading out on my own if there is even the slightest addition of other excuses. Or,
  2. Suck it up and deal with it.

The second option is, in my head, the preferable one. In every other bone in my body, first option is rather more appealing, because, did I mention that I really, really don’t like getting attacked by Magpies?

Still, I remain convinced that I must figure out a way to manage my state of mind and temper my physical response to these crazy beasts, because I like riding bikes, and it’d be a shame to do less of it on account of some vicious little (they’re actually not that little) dickheads.

Do you have any tales of you vs a Magpie? Actually, keep it to yourself.

Do you have any stories of how you successfully dealt with them? That’s what I want to hear.


Header image: source