28 September 2021

Man vs magpie at Murrumbateman, where it's war in the vineyard

| Genevieve Jacobs
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A magpie inflight

A magpie in full flight can strike fear into the hearts of many. Photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos.

It’s man vs bird. And while a shaky truce is holding (just) at Murrumbateman, Ravensworth winemaker Bryan Martin has more on his mind that just the grapes when he steps outside his door these days.

Plenty of people are swooped by anonymous magpie warriors across the city, but it’s rarer to have a personal relationship with a bird who is determined to obliterate you from your own front yard. And only you.

Bryan has captured his personal nemesis in full, fearsome, flight as he wheels, turns and dives at supersonic speeds (the magpie, not Bryan). And it’s not as if there’s history here – Martin says the magpie is a youthful newcomer, recently paired up and presumably doing his best to convince Mrs Magpie that he’s a proper bloke who will do the right thing by her and the kids.

“I see him sitting on a branch sharpening his beak and waiting for me,” Bryan tells Region Media. “I’m in and out of the house and down to the sheds half a dozen times each day but he never goes for anyone else except me.

“My son can be in the garden for hours – he’s a big bloke but the magpie never bothers him.

“But I go outside without my hat and there’ll be a huge whoosh and snap next to my ear. Or with my hat on, same thing, he doesn’t seem to care particularly.”

You can see exactly what that feels like in Bryan’s slow motion videos (and admire the steadiness of his hand while under assault by the avian equivalent of a MiG jet).

The odd thing is that Bryan and his family are positively fond of magpies. He’s insistent that nobody has ever hurt or harmed the bird in any way.

READ ALSO Magpies are evil, rotten, malevolent, dead-eyed bastards. Fact check: true

Bryan’s wife Jocelyn has been researching magpie behaviour and thinks they don’t actually intend to hit anyone, just to put the frighteners on them. She reckons if they hit you, it’s a mistake.

Whatever the bird’s actual intentions, so far, so good.

“We have a truce, he holds back on actually hitting me and I’ll leave the shotgun in the house.”

Have you been part of an epic magpie stand-off?

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I used to cycle to work from the top of Kambah to Barton via the ‘shared pathways’ routes. For one Spring season a particular magpie (or family) nesting in Sth WestWeston Creek would dive bomb me on the morning journey. Down in lower gear and up off the seat.

They were nowhere near as rigorous and determined on the return journey.

And the next year it all stopped!

Maybe I was going so fast on that long downhill run to the Sulwood-Drive and Parkway crossroads that they didn’t bother. A fast-moving

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