Urban Jungle

Everyone is disorientated, even the birds

I’m using a telescopic tree pruner, just like the one pictured.

The Fiskars UP86 Telescopic Bypass Tree Pruner [Image: Toolbank Express]
As I deftly (yep, pretty sure deftly is right) employ the contraption, its head is promptly and repeatedly swarmed upon by up to four magpies. Australian magpies (below, left) are not related to the European or Eurasian magpie (below, right), though they may have a similar plumage.

The Australian magpie (of butcherbird genus) is a tough animal: a formidable beast. Not many people survive the swarming of an Australian magpie (well — this is my story). Ok, most, if not everybody, survives the swarming of a magpie, but there are tales to be heard of them striking people in the back of the head and even enucleating an eye (the latter may be an urban myth), particularly in early Spring when they’re with young.

In short, the (Australian) magpie is a force to be reckoned with. And I am a force to be reckoned with. But the last thing I want is to do them harm. Apart from the fact that they are a protected species in this country, why would I want to harm such a magnificent, albeit at times menacing, creation?

What a marvelously stubborn design. What guile and what elegance. What right to life.

Here I am, then, keeping calm and acting cool, in the heat of late summer, but every time I loft this pole up into the air to manoeuvre it into position, the birds sortie back again from their makeshift perch on my neighbour’s TV antenna. (I know this neighbour doesn’t like me, so am not surprised that he would allow for a makeshift perch on his roof from which I can be attacked). Only after my repeated attempts at scaring them off—with singular dexterity, mind you—do the birds finally fly off, no doubt to terrify a neighbour or a schoolkid with her lunch.

Anyway … having dealt with one predator, I go inside to the safety of my study only to be confronted by another—in a sign of the times—whilst searching online.

A golden eagle grabs a flying drone during a military training exercise at Mont-de-Marsan French Air Force base, Southwestern France, February 10, 2017. [Text/Image: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau]
The Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) has likely survived and adapted over tens of millions years. With a foot like the one pictured below, and a wingspan 1.8 to 2.34 m wide, they will likely not easily be outdone by some quad-rotor drone.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

It’s amazing how technology has changed the environment, the ecosystem of our globe. I wonder, for instance, at how octogenarians view the enormity of the change, compared to the world of their childhood. It’s still the same world, I know, (and I mean no disrespect at all) but in many ways it obviously is not. And the rapidity of the change.

What do the animals make of it all? What do the birds think? Birds are just as territorial as we are, and we don’t like people (or things) getting into our space. Birds have adapted, for the most part, to the aeroplanes and the helicopters — and now this. Drones are much smaller, but fly low and chaotically. Telescopic tree-pruners have a mouth with lock-jaw and blade.

A magpie’s job is never finished. For the Golden Eagle, there is no rest.

It’s a jungle out there.


When I was perhaps ten years old, I took a shot, with a makeshift slingshot, at what was the closest living thing to me. It was a magpie standing on the concrete ground not ten feet away. The shot, I used a metal nut from a bolt, hit the ground ricocheting into the birds underbelly, rendering it immediately lame on one side. My father did the humane thing. And I realised then what is in man’s heart.

Further Reading
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