So – I hear you ask – how are our magpies getting on with their nest-building project?
Well, they’ve been at it all week (except Monday, which they seemed to have taken off). They’ve certainly been hard at the work thinning out the old nest –
and carrying the twigs to the site of the new nest at the top of the tree. Unfortunately most of these twigs then promptly fall down again, pursued by a vexed magpie. There is a tiny smudge of twigs where the new nest ought to be, and a growing carpet of them at the foot of the tree –
I believe that magpies have a deep rooted instinct to mate for life. It’s a good job that it is a deep rooted instinct, because I don’t think most relationships could take very much of this nest-building.
Male (as umpteenth twig falls to the ground) – “Well, I still can’t see what was wrong with the old nest …”
Female – “Well, I read in the paper it’d be full of parasites. Of course, if you want our chick to grow up in an unsanitary nest …”
M – “When I was a chick our nest was full of parasites and it never did me any harm. It’s health and safety gone mad if you ask me …”
F – “I suppose you mean your sisters?”
M – “You leave my sisters out of this and if you could keep your beak shut for five seconds you wouldn’t drop so many twigs …”
F – “Are you going to fetch that twig you just dropped, or are you going to spend all day arguing?”
M – “Why don’t you fetch it yourself, if you’re that bothered?”
And so on. Mind you, I’m sure it’ll be lovely when it’s finished.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Square Mile, this duck – inspired by the atmosphere of cut-throat competition – prepares to make a hostile takeover bid for my sandwiches –