Harlech, Gwynedd: Green, bronze, purple, touches of azure, red, iridescence – all these colours are there in their feathers
The ivy bush by my window affords endless pleasure. It’s huge. The outer reaches host an evening roost of house sparrows. In the league of creatures who make a racket entirely disproportionate to their size, house sparrows are up there with wrens and shrews. But they are more sociable and don’t sound so cross. For several years, the ivy’s inner reaches have been home to a pair of magpies, whose calls one eminent ornithologist unkindly compared to the sound of machine-gun fire. They have a greater range than that. Their chirrupings and chucklings are amiably tuneful.
I’m at a loss to understand why magpies are so widely disliked. For me, they are among the most beautiful of birds. Whoever held the palette when creating their plumage was one of the great artists. If you think of them merely as noisy monochrome crows, look again. Green, bronze, purple, touches of azure, hints of red, iridescence – all add depth and complexity to that overall piebald patterning.
Country diary: magpies are not to be seen in black and white terms