The Magpie Winter Season

Our birds have had a strange winter to deal with: overcast most days instead of sunny, cold days, but some warmer nights as the clouds keep the heat in.

Our magpie family, Vicky (the queen), Bertie (her consort - alpha male but her subordinate!), Vicky's adult daughter Mindy and youthful daughter Kenny, have fared well, but with a fly in the ointment: Mindy's twin brother Monty was told to leave when Bertie moved in, but he has gone across the gully and formed a group with three others. One is a daughter (Louie) of our other magpie family, Billy and Polly, but two more seem to be newcomers. We were feeding Monty when he was alone, but since his foursome has been formed, they think they can muscle in on the breeding pair's feeding ground - which is against magpie rules, of course, but his own mother is not keen on sending him packing, and so Bertie and Mindy have to do all the work of repelling Monty's gang, which is proving tough for Bertie. Luckily Bertie is an amazingly strong bird, but we have had to add our support to his side of the dispute and tell Monty we can't feed his gang any more.

But Monty is nothing if not clever, and he waits until we feed our grey butcherbird friends and then swoops in and steals their food. Often as not it is Mindy who then dives on Monty and shoos him back across the gully.

On top of this, Billy's adult daughter Freda (the one who eats from our hand and once watched our neighbour do arc welding) has moved way, way down into the valley below our hill, but she flies up once a day or so, swooping right in and landing at our feet, where none of the other birds dare come to send her away. She eats from our hand, then flies away high in the sky until she disappears. With binoculars I found her destination, about two kilometres away (which is a huge distance for magpies).

So everyone's well, but there's a bit of angst over the rule-breaking by certain parties. We say nice things to Bertie to cheer him up, and he struts the stage proudly whenever Vicky is not round. When she is, he leaves the centre stage to her!

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