Eurasian magpies (Pica pica) obviously have a special place in the heart of any Geordie, their black and white plumage with a hint of blue being the football strip colours of Newcastle United, obviously.
The birds’ reputation as thieving magpies is misplaced, although like most corvids (crows), the bird is attracted to objects such as coins and buttons which it might use to decorate its nest or simply collect because they imagine such objects are seeds.
As I think I’ve mentioned before, corvid cognition is much higher than one might anticipate based on brain structure of these descendents of the dinosaurs. Crows seem to be far more intelligent than our understanding of the brain based on mammalian biology (think clever rats and monkeys) suggests. The same also applies to parrots and related species and perhaps all birds.
These photos were snapped of a juvenile on one of the jetties overlooking an old gravel pit pond at Milton Country Park north of Cambridge. The bird was stood on the fence and started doing his song and dance routine when he saw us and the dog. It was a bright, but fairly grey day and his bright white and deep black means getting light readings and setting bracketing for a decent shot before he flew off was next to impossible. I quickly fired off as he squealed and flapped and then nudged the levels in the photos to get the most dramatic tones.
Incidentally, my reference to them being shy is that usually adults out in the countryside will take to the air and head for the middle distance or the nearest trees almost as soon as they see you, which is often before you see them. This youngster was in a relatively busy area and maybe hadn’t yet learned to recognise the risk of dogs and humans.