Friday, February 20, 2015

Magpie

Not my photo I confess, but kindly put on the web by Benutzer123.
When I was a young teenager my friends and I came across a pair of nestlings at the foot of a tree with a nest in. They were a long way from fledging and we couldn't get back up the tree to replace them so we took them home and put them in a cardboard box in the 'boiler room' and brought them up on baby food which we spoon fed them from the little jars.
When they started flapping about in the room we took them back to the fields and 'taught' them to fly by running down the slope and releasing them much as one would a model aeroplane. From memory it took about three or four training sessions then they were off. They almost immediately re-assimilated into the 'wild'. What I remember most is the smell in the boiler room: not exactly nauseating, but not pleasant either. A bit like baby-sick mixed with Farley's rusks.
Magpies make a terrible racket but have a beautiful iridescence to their black feathers. They are also in the crow family.

PS On 4th March there was a commotion in one of the smaller trees close to the house: looking out we counted 13 magpies sitting in its branches! I'm guessing this was part of some pre-breeding pairing off ritual. A few years ago when I was carrying out a winter survey of a local tetrad for the BTO Bird Atlas I witnessed over thirty magpies in a hawthorn in a field hedge.
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