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.