Friday, September 14, 2007

Like a true nature's child

Last Sunday as I headed out for a run, I was passed by a young girl on a bike, carrying a stick. Magpie season starting? I wondered, idly.

Despite this hint, 15 minutes later as I was running through a little bit of park, a green belt next to a stormwater drain, I was completely taken by surprise as a large dark mass swooped sideways over me. You don't generally hear it coming anyway, (just a horrifying snapping of the beak and rush of air as it goes over) but I had music playing in my earphones and was in another world. I am not usually a sprinter but you should have seen how fast I ran to get of his territory.

I suppose it is one way to get the heartrate up. But they freak me right out. I'm not super-fond of birds anyway. Mum passed on a bit of bird-phobia to me and my sisters. I've gotten better but still don't really like to dwell on such features as beaks and claws.

I've been swooped many times but I've never got an actual touch or peck on the head like many people do (K included). I shudder at the thought. Each spring, as soon as I work out where the overprotective parents' territories are, I plan my dogwalking and running routes to carefully avoid them. In a funny way it's not as scary with the dogs, as the magpie tends to swoop the dogs instead of me, and they don't seem to care or even notice much. We still hurry away, of course.

Sunday's run was a really unlucky one. Even with magpies well and truly on my mind, I forgot that most years there is a swooper in my street. A family of magpies that happily wanders our yard the rest of the year. They used to nest in a tree in our front yard which made collecting the mail a bit nerve-wracking. They've since moved a couple of trees down. I could easily have avoided this one but no, I got swooped, twice, before I managed to get home.

Bastards. I know they are just protecting their babies. But seriously, the nest is up high in a tree, and I am not trying to climb the tree or loiter under it. The wikipedia article has some interesting details - though I think it overstates the incidence of eye injuries a little bit. This one is fascinating too. Apparently magpies are very intelligent, and can recognise different people. Sometimes they seem to target certain individuals, allegedly because they might resemble someone who has done them wrong at some stage. I always say 'hello' to magpies, year round, and never let the dogs hassle or chase them. But maybe I have a mean doppelganger out there who throws rocks at birds.

11 comments:

Taphophile said...

As much as I adore magpies, and there is one outside singing right now, swooping is terrifying.

I love the head gear some people wear to prevent the attacks. Mum had us in icecream buckets with eyes drawn on the top when we were little. The mortification of that was worse than the swooping!

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the genetic phobia being passed on, but your story hasn't helped one bit! ily ma

Kate said...

Maybe you should knit a beanie with eyes on top? Or a scary face? Just a thought.

Donna Lee said...

I have the bird phobia thing as well. Although we do not have magpies here (I don't think). For that I am grateful. My sister in law raises birds and I hated going to her house. There were all these animals with wings and I swear they were looking at me planning to attack when my back was turned. I don't know where this phobia comes from, I don't think I was attacked as a child. Maybe in another life I was a worm...

amy said...

This is one of the reasons I so enjoy reading bloggers who live so far away....magpies, attacking? I'd never heard of such a thing. That IS terrifying. Talk about spicing up the morning jog a bit...

I don't fear birds (easy for me to say, never having been attacked by one). Mainly I just hope they don't poop on me. The gulls at the beach are pretty big and can be aggressive and stalk for food. I've seen them rustle through folks' bags and take the chips and stuff right out. That's why we NEVER feed the gulls at the beach (besides that snack food really isn't good for them).

Jejune said...

They are bloody petrifying, aren't they. Maybe you need to wear a bike helmet while you're running?

louise said...

Bit late for this year, but next year try feeding them. You will imprint into their memories (forgotten how many human faces they can store) and they won't swoop. Promise.

Olivia said...

Yep, I do know feeding them can help. But it's not feasible to feed all the magpies in the neighbourhood!

Bells said...

you know what? I don't feel the fear. This morning we were standing at the bus stop and a magpie swooped. I just kind of looked up and thought, oh a magpie. Huh. And got on with looking for the bus. Weird.

But if a dog was seen 50m down the road, I'd probably turn around and go home on a walk. THAT'S what scares me.

J said...

*shudder* from a fellow bird phobic. Do they smell fear i wonder?

Kevin said...

haha, we actually talked about bird phobias on my latest show - we hit and run on phobias.