It's spring in Canberra at the moment (well, APPARENTLY... Considering it's barely been above 12 degrees C for the past week and a bit, it sure doesn't feel like spring), and that means one thing - the swooping magpies of the Apocalypse. While said swooping magpies have always been an issue in Melbourne too, the vast amount of parkland and native trees seem to mean that Canberra's bird life consists primarily of native species. Especially magpies. Now, for those who aren't aware of it, Australian magpies are a wee bit different to the European versions. For starters, they're mean. Really mean. During spring, they become convinced that anyone within a ten metre radius of their nest is going to harm their evil little offspring, and so will divebomb you from a branch waaaaaay off the ground and fly straight at the back of your head. With painful results. Magpies take a particular dislike to cyclists for some reason, and as Canberra is a cycling mad city, people have adapted in a rather peculiar fashion - they put cable ties on their bike helmets. It tends to make them look a little like they've escaped from an episode of Third Rock from the Sun, but if it keeps a magpie from hitting you in the back of the head, so what.
I've had a long standing fear of birds. I think it started with seeing Jurassic Park - after noticing that birds walk exactly like the velociraptors, I could never look at birds without thinking that some day they were going to revert to their roots, turn into enormous carnivores and attack me. Season 8 of Red Dwarf did nothing to calm these fears. Neither did The Birds, especially when the viewing was at a sleepover when I was 15, and the following morning there was a giant crow (one of those creepy ones with the blue eyes, you know?) sitting on the windowsill staring in at us. Long story short, spring in Canberra is not my favourite time of year.
But this year (and last year for that matter), I haven't been swooped by a magpie. No, I've been swooped by something far more embarrassing. On Monday, my housemate and I were on our way to the gym when she pointed out to me that there were little swallows nesting in the parking garage of our apartment block. Only then one of these birds (which were no longer than your hand) started looping in circles, getting closer and closer to us. It was rather like the scene in Jurassic Park where Dr. Grant says that the herd of dinosaurs wheels in formation, like a flock of birds evading a predator, and the kids go "They're...uh, they're flocking this way" (Yes, I've seen Jurassic Park waaaaaaay too many times. Deal with it.). Basically, I wound up with a stupidly tiny bird diving at my head while I screamed "Unlock the door!!! Unlock the door!!!" to my housemate, who was already in the car. Like I said, spring is not my favourite time of year.
Oh, and to prove that this wasn't an isolated incident, I offer you this:
A month or so ago, a massive cockatoo flew into the window of the apartment while I was sitting at the table right next to the window. It left behind a delightful grease mark (as you can see in the picture - you can clearly make out the wings, the crest, the beak etc...) and a couple of feathers (which thankfully fell off, because they were incredibly creepy). The bird, for the record, flew away uninjured. And we were left with the wings and body of a cockatoo imprinted on our window. It's still there, a month later. It's like a little ghost cockatoo, watching our every move... So my point is this - I hate birds because they're out to get me. Even through plate glass windows...