Problems for Vicky Magpie

Vicky and her new fellow, Bertie, have settled in and Vicky is now tending her nest. We are not sure whether she has hatched eggs, and we haven't been able to bring out our telescope due to the excessive wind and the big dust storms, which have been reported around the world. (We have to put the telescope in our breakfast room with the door wide open.)

The new gang of young adults, which seems to contain Vicky and Maggie's only male child, Monty, as well as two of neighbour Billy's young adult daughters, has been creating some problems for them. The new gang seems to think they have rights to our back bank and the mulberry tree - probably because Monty 'owned' them as a chick. It was the tree, after all, in which his older sister Sophie had used to sing her beautiful songs for us, and under which Monty had left a tribute of food after Sophie died.

Bertie, new to the family, has been very considerate of Monty despite being attacked often, but he is taking a stand and insisting his family has rights to come to our yard. Seeing that it is hard for them, I have been walking up the road to feed them; but most times, Bertie or Vicky see me leaving the house and come to the yard to save me the walk. Then they have a singing match with the youngster group. I suspect that after breeding season, when the nest no longer needs watching, they will take a sterner line with the youth and tell them it is time to find another home. But on the other hand, Maggie himself did what Monty is now doing, pinching a little corner of his adopted dad, Fatty's, land, and living there as a batchelor with two of Fatty's daughters, Cindy and Tammy. (Fatty is now dead and his biological son Billy now lives in his old territory. There's a long story to that.) The pinched corner eventually became the central point in Maggie and Vicky's breeding territory.

It might sound as if I am using human concepts to explain bird behaviour. Well, Occam's razor is to use the fewest number of hypotheses possible. And interpreting our birds' actions as if they are motivated by all the same goals and emotions as people has worked for us for nine years, so I regard it as the most sensible thing to do.

Vicky is completely recovered from her illness also, so that is another good thing. Another magpie frequenting our yard (and wanting to frequent our house too!) is Fatty's strange teenager (last year's baby) Freda, or Fritz as Gitie calls her. (We never quite decided whether she is male or female.) Freda ignores all the disputes and just keeps on eating. She watches our neighbour do arc welding, sits on tables and chairs in another neighbour's house, and generally behaves in a most non-magpie way. But last week she disappeared for two days, which all the youngsters seem to do if they are looking for a spot to move to when they leave home. They disappear, reappear, half a dozen or so times, and then go for good. So maybe Freda isn't so silly after all.

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