The Magpie and Sputnik

Another helmet theme …


The magpie is a most illustrious bird
Dwells in the diamond tree
One brought sorrow, one brought joy,
Sorrow and joy for me
Sorrow and joy for me ...(Donovan)

Here’s the world war I flying ace flying his Sopwith Camel over the fields of northern France. He is thinking of the pretty little maid who served root beer last night. Suddenly there is a shadow behind him. Smoke is coming out of his engine. Curse you Red Baron!!
The magpie may well be illustrious, and may well be “a most royal bird”. But for two months of the year it is vicious. In September I moved to Canberra. I was commuting along Arthur Circle when I was first “swooped”. The bird came from behind so I couldn’t see which side he was coming from. The crack of its beak was like two rocks smashed together in my ear. If that bird found me it would draw blood – lots of it.
I changed my route.
A couple of weeks later I was provisioning, riding on Newcastle Crescent. A “maggie” came from behind, and he was nasty, nasty, nasty. I decided to change routes and fashion.


Sputnik fashion

Local riders sport cable ties on their helmets. Supposedly they deter attacks. Well, why not? I went whole hog for “Sputnik fashion”.
Next weekend I was on Newcastle Crescent again. I changed my route as best I could to avoid my “friend”. Halfway up a climb (of course) I saw him coming at me from ten o’clock, beak down and beady eyes straight on me. He was gunning for me. Left side, right side, right side again. He punched me on the shoulder four times, all while I was trying to keep control in traffic.
They win. The cable ties are off. I simply avoid those places now. I’ll give the magpies 6 to 8 weeks to nest and raise their young’uns. Then I’m sure they will once again be “the gentle magpie bird”.

3 comments on “The Magpie and Sputnik”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    I've had this with seagulls but not magpies. Seagulls are as vicious as it gets and chickens run under hedges when they are in the air. Chickens however will chase off magpies and big black rooks. Recently, Robins were voted the British 'national bird' but they are vicious too. The bird hierarchy of authority is interesting. Chickens of course have their own internal pecking order although it is mostly posturing. I can believe magpies actually hurt. Incidentally, Sandra always salutes a lone magpie (for good luck, so they are not 100% bad).

    Australia eh? Very nice.

  2. Chris wrote:

    Patrick wrote: Recently, Robins were voted the British 'national bird' but they are vicious too.

    Which reminds me why I was all confused when I saw that photograph of the magpie. "It's not a magpie" was my first reaction. Turns out it is an Australian magpie. And that reminded me of Mary Poppins. Stay with me. Almost forty years ago I started to develop an interest in ornithology. Shortly after I watched Mary Poppins. I really don't remember much about the film, apart from Dick Van Dyke and a bit when MP opened a window to let in a robin. In London, I think. Walt Disney Studios used a poorly realised American robin. And that ruined the film for me. Naturally, these days there are legions of people who have written about this outrage on the Internet.

    Anyway, at least the mystery has now been solved of why in Australia helmets are compulsory.

  3. Hilary wrote:

    Yes, I've heard Australian Magpies can be vicious. Like the American Robin they are not related to the European species at all – just named after them by settlers as they are roughly the same colour. If its any consolation Ozzy Magpies have a lovely flutey song.

    Nice to see the blog is still alive and kicking – I thought it had died a death!

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