Dear old dogs missed the magpie memo

Our damned corgis need a good whack under the ear. They’re undermining a very important project at Casa Bushwhacked.

When we first moved here, there were a few magpies in the neighbourhood and we liked their early morning songs and occasionally chucked them some scraps.

In the first magpie breeding season here, they swooped with great frequency and force. We were pretty sad, because at the previous house we’d owned there was a great colony of maggies who loved holding daily “meetings” in our driveway.

When you’d drive through the gates, they’d shuffle a metre or two out of the way and then resume their nattering when the car had passed.

It was their homes as much as ours. More probably.

So we decided to develop a strategy for the new house.

I’d read somewhere that magpies can recognise human faces and won’t swoop if they realise you are friendly and no threat to them or their young.

Every morning when we let the chooks out of the coop, I’d take a couple of slices of bread, or whatever was available and chuck most to the chooks. Then I’d look directly up into the great shaggy gumtree overhead, catch the eye of a magpie and throw the rest of the bread up onto the flat shed roof.

They quickly got the hang of it and over the next year, more and more joined the Bushwhacked Breakfast Club.

They stopped swooping the next breeding season and I have now watched three years of young’uns join the flock.

It’s now quite funny. They start gathering early in the morning, singing and jumping about and when I go to open the chook house door – there’ll be up to a dozen of them overhead watching and waiting.

I first thought it was just a taming exercise: I’ll give you your daily bread and you’ll forgive me my trespasses.

But now I find, it’s more than that. They now display genuine trust. They seem to introduce their offspring and the familiarity passes on to the next generation. They don’t seem to mind even if you stand very close to them and – now this might be my imagination – appear to be warbling much more than they did a couple of years back.

There is now scientific evidence that magpies can develop genuine friendships with humans, and for a good reason.

About 80 per cent of all successfully breeding magpies live near houses and are strongly territorial.

It is a sound strategy to live in harmony with humans in your own space, a lesson some world leaders with bad haircuts could benefit from.

You might think this sounds like a good outcome, so why are the dogs in the metaphorical dog house?

They don’t seem to have received the memo.

They romp down into the back yard, yapping with glee and chasing after any magpie which has the temerity to land in THEIR territory.

As a consequence, the dogs get swooped. But, being dogs, they just think this is part of a game. Aha, I’ll chase you and then you chase me!

There has been the odd yelp, however, when the magpies make a direct hit and make off with a clump of dog fur.

I’m also starting to suspect the highly intelligent maggies regard this activity as sort of farming.

It’s a delight to find the nests so cosily lined in brown and white fur.

WAYNE GREGSON