Sheena, Queen of the Jungle – I’m Not
Ì love animals, you name it, love them all, especially frogs. Not that frogs are animals but you get the idea. Magpies though, now that’s a different story or at least it was. Being totally traumatised during childhood I always considered magpies one species of wildlife that I would I never say that about. I spent most trips to and from school during magpie breeding season carrying a piece of wood and behaving as if I was walking down a dark alleyway at midnight. The ever present stalker ready to attack the moment I let my guard down. I’m an “excellent ducker and weaver” to this day. It’s just a pity that I didn’t have better athletic ability where this highly developed skill could have been of more use.
We had two magpies living in our yard, just young birds, not a whole year old. They had no fear of our human presence in their lives or that of our domestic animals. Not even the constant staring of our old orange cat perturbed them. Our maggies had their first litter in late winter and the babies were ready to leave the nest in early spring.
Craig found the first baby in the small Banksia tree near the garage. Stunned by the fact it didn’t move when he patted it he couldn’t wait to show the kids when they came home. Being Sheena, queen of the jungle my immediate diagnosis was “Its fallen out of the nest, we’ll have to look after it”.
My husband and his brother both tried to assure me that the parents were looking after it. Of course I didn’t listen and managed to course he poor thing to fly into a tall sapling, safely out of arms my arms reach, there it stayed all afternoon. The beautiful day that had been Sunday had been disappear in a torrential downpour, complete with howling wind, trees nearly doubling over as the southerly hit. I looked out my kitchen window and stared at the helpless baby sitting perched in the tree, with its sparsely covered, needle like foliage offering no protection. The night rolled in the wet and the blackness was almost unbearable. I couldn’t stop worrying about the tiny bird and succumbed to my mothering instincts
Standing under the tree it didn’t take long for the rain to penetrate my clothes but I couldn’t reach the bird. If I tried to climb up to it I’d probably fall into the creek which the tree overhung. There was nothing else to do; I’d have to force it down. The long stick that held up my washing line would do. Being cruel to be kind is a thing we humans do well, and I was no exception. The rain and darkness made the task even harder. There were times when I was sure I’d shish kabobbed the poor thing, but still I pressed on through the driving rain. Finally I managed to push the frightened baby far enough down the tree so I could grab it. Clutching my prize I hurried inside.
It was soaked to the bone. Sitting there with it the snuggled in to my chest I was quietly confident that interfering with nature was the purpose of mankind but after spending the night with the bird in a box next to me I wasn’t so sure. The bright morning sunshine poured through the window and I could hear the parent magpies warbling in the yard and knew what had to do.
Out in the yard I found there was actually not one baby but two. The second sitting patiently on a branch the way my charge had been before my interference. Placing the bird next to its sibling I was quietly confident that I was setting the world to right. Alas, the last time I saw the fledgling that day it was stuck in a thicket of long grass along way from the other baby. Sleep didn’t come easy that night. Having the parents reject it because of me weighed heavily on my conscience. Watching the parents and the other baby for the week, my guilt had to some degree subsided. Suddenly a miraculous turn of events, my son Jack came running in with the news there were two baby magpies in the wattle tree and sure enough there they were.
It seems that magpies separate their babies into different trees until they can fly properly. They probably do this incase some marauding predator like an Eagle, Hawk or interfering human decides to steal a baby, then they wouldn’t get both. Only at night do they bring them together into the same tree.
Apparently Magpie parents know what’s best for their babies, who would have thought!