Friday, 18 October 2013

Reynard and Magpies

24th Oct.  I took a quiet walk on patch today so as to enjoy the sun.   Although bright and warm, the changes to the colouring of the foliage made it quite obviously autumn, as did the masses of berries, and the leaves on my lawn.  I think the birds will be well fed this year!

I’d caught sight of a Mistle Thrush feeding on berries in the trees at the bottom of my garden earlier in the day and as I wandered I came across another in flight.  Mistle Thrushes had been absent from my walks recently.  As I walked along by the hedging and stone walls I saw little, but listened to the calls of common garden birds, gulls and corvids.  Once I’d reached a different vantage point I saw that I may have well walked closely beside a Fox.  As I looked over the fields I saw that a Fox was resting behind the wall I had followed earlier.  It seemed quiet content to enjoy the warmth of the day and had no eye on making a meal of one of the many Rabbits or party of six Pheasants sharing the area with it.  A single Stock Dove was also feeding along with crows and gulls.  The only disturbance to the Fox seemed to be Magpies which were constantly mobbing it.  I watched the Fox eventually lethargically stand up and slowly walk across the field and then follow the direction of the hedge which it used for cover.  It disappeared from view on occasions but the presence of the following Magpies gave away its movements.  It appeared again as it walked through a small flooded area before stopping to rest again in the sun behind some housing.  The Magpies were relentless and on one occasion there was at least fifteen of them along the hedge as single birds flew over and at the Fox.  The Fox didn’t waste any energy attempting to chase them but instead made off once again in the direction from which it had come.  I eventually lost sight of it, but from the rattling calls of the Magpies I suspect the Fox was still present when I left the area.  I believe this to be a well trodden path used by Reynard, so I will keep a look out.

With so many Magpies present I was reminded of the related rhyme and this one is the longest I could find after a quick search.  There are many different versions.

One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told
Eight for a wish
Nine for a kiss
Ten a surprise you should be careful not to miss
Eleven for health
Twelve for wealth

Thirteen beware it's the devil himself.
The rhyme has its origins in superstitions and the magpie was considered a bird of ill omen in some cultures.  A version of the rhyme appears to have been first recorded around 1780 in John Brand’s Observations on Popular Antiquities.  I know someone who salutes Magpies so as to ward of ill luck

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