Nature Photography

Magpie, My Brother!

Dogs are man’s best friend. So it is said. It’s true, too. Humans and dogs evolved together. You could say, people became human by interacting with dogs, and dogs became dogs by interacting with people. The same goes for magpies, though. They’ve always hung around humans, to clean up after their kills. That’s why they follow us all still, wherever we go.

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Magpie Keeping His Eye on Me

Turtle Mountain

Who knows what the people might be up to, eh! Now, usually, the magpies around here love the road. It’s a grand place for road kill and discarded junk food from town pitched out the 4×4 window on the race out to the lake.

piepostSo, I guess it’s no surprise that in my favourite Columbia Hawthorn tree, in a ditch on a blind hill especially suitable for a bit of roadkill snacking down, a little addition showed up last summer:

pienestMagpie Nest in a a Columbia Hawthorn

Probably waiting for a speeding car to bump me off so the kids can clean up my bones.

Traditionally, owls move into these nests — all thanks to the ancient relationship between humans and their trickster birds that have graced Syilx and other Plateau stories since stories were first told in these parts (which is way back before Mesopotamia was anything other than a marsh.)

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Young Magpies Gathering Together for Protection …

… and telling each other stories, no doubt.

Typically, in these stories magpies (sen7án̓se in Secwepemc) are playing with bones as if they were a game of Lahal, the ancient stick game of the grasslands (play it online here). Here’s a story of Magpie, bone expert extraordinaire, from the Buffalo Country.

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Magpie Keeping Track of Me at Dusk on Winter Solstice

Before the snow obliterates my trail, I suspect.

As for the owls (snine in Secwepemc), keep your cats indoors. Owls love cat, and when it’s time to clean up the bones? You know who’ll be there: the spirit of this place, smarter than us all, cleaning up after the predators, betting on a prosperous future, and laughing.

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