Dear Readers, the magpies have been hanging around quite a lot lately (probably following my bird food preference experiment a few months ago), but today I (belatedly) realised that they appear to be making a nest. They are plucking twigs from the whitebeam, and seem to be weaving them into a rather untidy habitation in the top of the tree. I can’t tell which is the male and which is the female, but one of them spends a lot of time away from the garden gathering twigs, while the other one seems to be trying to tidy it up.
From what I remember, young magpies have to learn how to make a ‘proper’ nest, and it might be several years before they’re successful – these are long-lived birds, and I suspect that what’s happening here is that they are basically ‘playing house’ rather than making a serious breeding attempt. We’ll see over the next few days, but it all looks a bit flimsy and contingent to my eyes. However, I am clearly not a magpie, and in some ways this is an ideal situation, with lots of food available and relative safety, though do note Mr Bear the cat who always takes a lot of interest in whatever is going on.
You can see the comings and goings of the magpies below. The neighbours were less than impressed by the sheer volume of sound that these birds can produce as soon as it gets light, so I suspect I’m going to be very popular over the next few months. Fortunately East Finchley is not the kind of place that is very fond of gathering on someone’s doorstep with pitchforks and lighted torches, but we’ll see as nesting season progresses.
I am actually quite impressed that this pair are finding nesting material for themselves – on several occasions I’ve watched them dismantle the nests of other birds, especially crows and woodpigeons, while the owners of the nests watched helplessly. They really are pirates, and while I have some concerns for any smaller birds who might be thinking of nesting nearby, I also wonder if these magpies will at least keep everybody else off. We’ll have to see. As I’ve said before, when you devise a garden for wildlife, you don’t get to say who can come and who can’t. We could be in for interesting times.