From Pipi’s Pasture: Magpie memories | CraigDailyPress.com

From Pipi’s Pasture: Magpie memories

Diane Prather

Diane Prather

One day this past summer, I thought I heard the chattering of a magpie.

The sounds came from the distance. Over the next few days I heard the chattering again, but I didn't see the magpie.

The sounds immediately brought back memories of the birds at the ranch when I was growing up. There were (and are) lots of magpies up Morapos, but we haven't seen any at Pipi's Pasture since we moved here—not that I've missed them. More about that to follow.

I heard the magpie during the rest of the summer, always from a distance. Finally, one day there he was, perched up on a branch in the crabapple tree right outside the dining room window. After that, I saw two magpies in the elm trees that border the yard fence, but that's all—so far.

Magpies are beautiful birds, but they're nuisances. We've had experiences with them in two other places besides the home ranch. When Lyle and I were first married, before we had children, we lived in a rural area near Fort Collins. I had a house cat named Dini. He went outdoors occasionally, and for some reason a magpie decided to tease him. Every time the cat was outside, the magpie walked right along behind him, chattering away.

He stayed far enough away that he could fly up when Dini turned around, not that the cat could have ever caught him. Sometimes the bird walked right in front of Dini, and the cat followed along, trying to figure out a way to get rid of his heckler. Sometimes the bird walked across the road that ran in front of our house, Dini right behind him, and I was afraid that my kitty would get run over.

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I never figured out why the magpie teased Dini, but I have seen magpies tease other animals, too. Once I even wrote a children's story about a trouble-causing magpie. I believe her name was Myrtle.

Then at another place, the magpies came in and ate the cat food. I always put out food and water for stray barn cats since they keep the mouse population down. Anyway, it's a cat's habit to eat a little food and then leave, perhaps to take a nap. The cats plan to return for more food, but if there are magpies around, the cats had better forget it. As soon as the cats are out of sight, the birds fly down and hop around on the ground, eating all of the food. I fed more magpies than cats, and when we moved, family members teased me about who was going to feed the magpies.

When we lived at this particular place, there was an old house next door. One day there was a high wind, which blew a magpie out of one of the trees that surrounded the house. The bird hit one of the windows and fell onto the ground, his feet up in the air. I thought he was dead, but after awhile, he came to and staggered around, probably trying to figure out what happened.

I always figured that magpies must taste awful to animals that might eat them. Once I found a dead magpie at the corral, but even though there were lots of cats around, nothing ever touched him.

When I heard the magpie this past summer, it triggered plenty of memories.