Saturday 21st April
Stop for a while in your busy day, just pause for a moment and look out for a magpie. You won’t have to wait long, these birds are everywhere nowadays, not just in the countryside, but in parks and gardens in urban areas too, in fact they seem to be taking over, I don’t remember seeing so many when I was young. They are the most beautiful of birds with an almost exotic plumage, more suited to some South American rainforest than our dreary shores. Their colours are like some smart uniform for a national airline, the sparkling white and the iridescent black-blue which shimmers in the sunlight in such stark contrast to each other. And they are such brave birds, seemingly unafraid of anything and certainly quite oblivious of us humans, as they swoop and dart through the trees, and hop along the pavements just in front of you. They seem almost friendly, but don’t be deceived, the magpie is not friendly at all; it is one of the most ruthless of the birds, the true descendents of the dinosaurs. They are quite rapacious and will eat anything, true scavengers and of course among the most successful of species, along with rats pigs and foxes and humans – all creatures who will devour anything and stop at nothing to get what they need to survive. They are also reckoned to be one of the most intelligent of species, even recognizing themselves in mirrors, and learning how to solve puzzles. Is this perhaps because they are scavengers and therefore have had to develop their intelligence to seek out new food sources, unlike more specialist birds which only eat one type of food.
But they are also one of the most beautiful of birds too, much prettier than the crows and rooks they are related to. So next time you see a magpie, don’t just pass him by, but stop a moment and watch as he dives about and try to catch his eye as he struts around unafraid and bold in his smart bright feathers, and put a good word in for me while you are about it.