Magpies and mice

by Richard Jones

At 11 o'clock in the morning, breakfast/lunch was interrupted by the announcement from nearly-three-year-old: "Look, there's a magpie".

Richard JonesAt 11 o'clock in the morning, the bowl of Bob-the-Builder pasta shapes was either a late second breakfast, or an early first lunch - whatever, it was interrupted by the announcement from nearly-three-year-old: "Look, there's a magpie". Sure enough there, chattering loudly in the apple tree, was old black and white, cocking its head first one way, then the other.

I was really chuffed. Not about having the bird in the garden, but about the boy correctly identifying it. I congratulated him on his observation and we had a short discussion on the significance of contrasting coloration, the myths surrounding hoarded jewels and foil sweet wrappers and the distinctions between other sorts of pie.

As it fluttered down to the lawn I was just about to slip into doggerel when all thought of sorrow or joy, girl or boy was erased from my mind. It purposefully stepped forward, picked up a dead mouse that was lying in the grass and flew off.

We've had mice in the compost bins ever since we started putting kitchen waste in them. Never enough to cause a problem by them coming indoors, but enough to occasionally catch a startled rodent face looking up at me as I dump out the next consignment of banana skins and potato peelings. It gives the cats something to chase other than blue-tits and sparrows. Oh, and I hope it will stop them terrorising the budgerigars by climbing on top of the cage and hurling it to the ground.

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Gardeners' World Web User 23/04/2007 at 10:00

Reply to magpie-haters: I understand people not liking these birds. I'm protected from a lot of this dislike because I have cats that do their own fair share of song-bird destruction and in London I think the magpies are mainly scavengers rather than predators. We also get a lot of crows, and it is these, I think, that keep dropping chicken bones in the gutters. I recently saw crow-hate taking to an extreme. A dead one is now strung up by its feet on one of the neighbouring allotments. I was always told by my father that gamekeepers strung up their kills on the fence for two reasons, one to show their employer that they had been working well, and two, to frighten off other 'vermin'. Until last Sunday I had not seen such a display gibbet for 30 years.

Gardeners' World Web User 18/02/2008 at 13:52

Haven't had magpies in the garden but noticed in a local park whilst a load of small birds were mobbing a polystyrene chip tray in vain as it was upside down a magpie flew down turned the tray with its foot and flew off with the contents leaving a flock of enraged sparrows fighting over nothing these birds are observant and bright!

Gardeners' World Web User 19/02/2008 at 08:51

Pretty as they may be it is worth remembering that these birds are a member of the crow family and are a pest and will happily eat small birds, eggs and anything else that they can get there claws on. Would rather have the mice in my garden then magpies

Gardeners' World Web User 19/02/2008 at 13:56

I think most of us realise (if we are interested in birds) that the magpie is a member of the crow family and like all of that family greatly maligned. yes, they eat the young of other birds, a not uncommon habit in the bird family. Yes, they are scavengers of the rubbish humans leave around but their place in the world is as important as every other creature. We are all in the boat together and I firmly believe that the loss of songbirds etc is more rightly the fault of human pests than avian!

Gardeners' World Web User 21/02/2008 at 02:04

My house backs onto woodland and Magpies and Jays are a welcome sight, cleaning up any leftovers after the Squirrels, rabbits, Foxes, and other birds have finished having their share. I have even had one sit on my shoulder and eat from my hand when scattering seeds and other food for the birds. A rare event but it happens. The squirrels seem to be the most friendliest, especially when peanuts are on offer. Although many class Foxes as smelly vermin, I welcome and feed them as well, after all they are practically harmless, and its a real delight to see the cubs romping in the garden. They are of course all gods creatures and are entitled to their life just as much as we are. Its easier to live with them than without them. Food for thought. H.

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