I MUST take issue with the article in the October 28 edition warning about magpies swooping.
I mostly agree with wildlife officer Emma Lipianin that most attacks are only a low swoop and turning one’s eyes towards them is a calculated (or not) risk. I also agree that taunting by children makes matters worse.
However, my experiences and those of friends and colleagues indicate that this can be an over-complacent attitude.
Although I have lived in Queensland, most of my experiences relate to Cockburn and the ACT. North Lake and to a slightly lesser extent Yangebup Lake are my local experiences.
Between North Lake and Farrington Road, I have been charged face on. Gangs of at least two magpies have also attacked me persistently.
I am not happy just letting them swoop because of previous experiences.
While working for CSIRO in Canberra, a Dutch visitor broke her arm fending off a magpie while she was riding through ANU. She was also cut just below the eye, as was another colleague.
The technique seemed to be a sneaky, rear attack in a head-height glide with a sideways cut of the beak as close to the eye as possible.
I also experienced this and the approach is deliberately silent rather than intimidating until the bill goes in.
In another area of Canberra, I would be happily riding along when, without warning, there was a cricket ball-like thud to my bicycle helmet, which was repeated.
A colleague has described having to stop her car to get out and rescue a schoolchild who was helpless and in great distress while a magpie repeatedly and closely attacked his/her head and hair.
That reminds me of the young girl who lost her eye to such an attack a few years ago.
The point is that, as Emma Lipianin writes, the magpie attack is a seasonal defence response and often predictable.
I don’t know the solution apart from awareness and people warning each other. Some think that providing a higher target (stick or flag) than your head works. However, I do not have enough experience to comment on that.
Nevertheless, because people their lose sight and break bones in magpie attacks, it is a problem not to be taken lightly.