Friday, October 27, 2006

Swoop 2006!

The season has officially begun. For weeks I have been cautiously eyeing the sky, looking for sudden movements in the trees, listening for that all too familiar sound of fluttering feathers as these black and white dive bombers make their approach. In four days of cycling, I can report three strikes, all within a 2km radius of the ANU. The worst of these, as always, was the first of the season, which took me completely by surprise. This magpie, for whatever reason, has decided the best place to setup shop for the spring time egg hatching season is in a tree right next to the ANU's main entrance gate. I don't have the stats, but on any given day I would expect a few hundred cyclists probably pass through this gate. This magpie has decided to take on the formidable task of swooping just about every cyclist passing through this entrance. It must surely be the most strung out magpie in Canberra, and if I were the magpie, I'd be having a very serious chat with my real estate agent.

This morning I received my third swooping of the week, this time from a different bird preferring the quieter surrounds of Black Mountain - though not quiet enough apparently. The interesting thing about this magpie is that I have been observing it for weeks, sitting on a power line above the road, watching the traffic below with great skepticism. It has always had that look - that look of being on edge, and very trigger ready, that look that at any moment, it might just snap, and decide "that's it!". Well, I am not sure what happened over night, but clearly magpie central radioed in some sort of "fire at will" command, because I received a pretty comprehensive swooping this morning, and a clear message that Black Mountain is no longer a viable cycling option.

Of course, these magpies do not really inflict any injuries, so long as you are wearing a helmet. My real fear is not the magpie itself, but my reaction to the magpie, which normally involves my bike fish-tailing uncontrollably as I apply the brakes suddenly, and attempt to make eye contact with the bird (because this is somehow supposed to act as a deterrent). Riding along a busy three lane road makes this quite a stressful affair, and it has become abundantly clear that I should stick to the bike paths for the remainder of the magpie season.

So be warned Canberran cyclists - swoop 2006 has begun!


Blogger melt said...

So are you investing in a pair of large goggly eyes for the back of your helmet? Proven magpie protection and the height of fashion to boot.

10/27/2006 12:19:00 PM

Blogger macca said...

If I were ever a presenter on Myth Busters, my first myth to bust would be this time-honoured belief that putting eyes on the back of your helmet somehow protects you. I have the evidence to the contrary - a self made sticker depicting a pair of eyes, with numerous holes poked in it after a pleasant Sunday bike ride in country NSW during the early weeks of November last year, turned into a re-enactment of Pearl Harbour.

To steal a quote from one of my favourite Simpsons episodes:

"The goggles do nothing"

10/27/2006 12:27:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Begun? BEGUN?!!!

I thought it was all over :(

I am so sad.

Mands: "magpie phobic"

10/30/2006 08:49:00 AM

Blogger macca said...

sorry Mands - based on previous years, end of November is a more accurate indicator of when the season is over .. and even then, there is always that one bird that didn't receive the memo.

- while on the topic, I should also update the swooping situation. Aff and I, at Uni of Canberra on Saturday, were swooped by some sort of brown bird. Not sure what it was, but it wasn't a magpie. This news is, of course, no comfort to you Mands. Keep an eye on the sky!

10/30/2006 11:00:00 AM

Anonymous Aff said...

Ah well... before you give up on the googly eyes Chris could I make a gentle suggestion - get someone else to draw some for you this season... Having viewed your last artwork I suspect maggies mistook your hand drawn "eyes" and sticky tape combo for a delicious pair of beetles or a fat, shiney witchety grub :)

10/31/2006 03:06:00 PM


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