Spring has sprung! After hibernating a bit through winter, I love getting outdoors. There’s one problem though – I have a crippling fear of swooping magpies. I wish I had some cool story involving blood that resulted in my fear but I don’t. Just stories of flapping wings, snapping beaks and that familiar squawk they make as they attack.
I grew up in Canberra. Magpies love Canberra and they love swooping Canberrans. Every week we would go to Little Athletics at our local oval and the nastiest of the nasty magpies had a nest in the tree above the long jump pit. Every week countless kids were swooped and every week we stood by and watched, laughing nervously and thankful when we weren’t the ones targeted. I remember lining up for a 400 metre race and just as it was about to start one started swooping me. The starter of the race (who also happened to be my policeman father) came to my rescue. He ran at the bird with his starter pistol, firing off shots! We laugh about it now, as obviously the magpie wasn’t in the slightest bit fazed by his cap gun. And lucky that sucker wasn’t loaded with real bullets. I’m not sure I’d trust his aim!
As spring draws closer, I’m so scared as I’m walking perfectly familiar routes that I get anxiety attacks should one previously friendly magpie suddenly become territorial. I’ve sat in parks with friends and hurriedly packed up and gone home after seeing a kid on a bike being targeted. I literally can’t focus and get nervous until I remove myself from the situation. My friends find it hilarious.
I’ve tried all the tricks. Worn an ice cream bucket with eyes on the back of it. Worn sunglasses on the back of my head. Walked along with sticks swinging above my head (an adaptation of my method to deal with spiderwebs). Attached a flag on the back of my bike. Attached cable ties and pipe cleaners to the top of my bike helmet. Only hung out with people taller than me. But I still ended up getting targeted. I remember someone telling me to always keep your eye on them and they won’t get you. Not true. I’ve had one dive bomb me straight on and another time I had my eyes on the male and the female attacked me from behind.
So I’m reaching out to the mums of the Hills District. Rather than being on helicopter watch (a favourite HDM past time) I ask you to be on swooping magpie watch this spring. This is not about vigilantism – in fact, I admire a magpie’s commitment to keeping their babies safe. This is all about me avoiding them. See now I have kids I’m afraid of how I will react. Chances are I might just run and abandon them. And if I did stay, with weakened pelvic floor muscles I might literally wet my pants, and no one wants to witness that. So if people report sightings of swooping magpies I will well and truly avoid the area, saving all sorts of embarrassment.
And if you’re prepared to go on magpie watch for me, can I also ask you to report plovers as well? Those little birds with the spurs on their wings are nasty! But I’ll save my stories about them for another time.
Do you have any stories about magpies? Have you sighted any swooping magpies in the Hills?