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“ Aha! Aha!” sounded the five Black-billed Magpies far above in the Manitoba Maples. “ Aha! Aha!” rang over the neighbourhood, jubilant yet criticizing and severe. It declared to all the world that the cat beneath their raucous cacophonic group had committed a terrible act against them. A normal puss they would have been overlooked, or ignored or paid little heed to, for there was no point in mobing an unoffending creature, but when it has perpetrated an act such as that, well! “ Aha! Aha!” heard the tabby as orange as orange could be, named Hi out of fondness. His tail was twitching in exasperation as he made his way through the urban green-space with the magpies hopping from branch to branch or swooping from tree to tree above him. Oh, what an accusatory note those avenging magpies called, their wish none other than to right the wrong which had been done against them. Suddenly, Hi had endured enough. Like an oversized squirrel, he shot up a tree in which one of the exotic-looking birds perched in the hopes of snatching it and intimidating the others. But his intended victim was too smart and swift. Swish! It launched itself to a safer vantage point while its companions burst into a louder scolding in their surprise. They knew that the cat could not now reach even one of them. In frustration, Hi perched himself between the two branches which shot from the trunk, his tail ferociously swatting invisible flies. At first the magpies came closer, eagerly awaiting the cat's next move and preparing themselves for a counter attack. But Hi only sat pensively, his eyes wide in annoyance, gazing about, his tail like a whip. For a while all the magpies were in patient attention, gazing down with shining eyes. But the longer Hi remained still, the more the determination of the magpies to bother this criminal of their laws ebbed. First one flitted away, then another until only three remained, settled stubbornly in their positions, their excitement now at its lowest. Now with a couple less followers, the cat decided to brave the way down the trunk he had ascended. Looking down, he surveyed from side to side, searching for the safest rout. The birds above pretended not to notice his actions and did not stir. Finally, Hi made the leap. Clinging firmly onto the rough tree bark, he thrust his hind legs in the air and with a flourish, he flipped about and found himself right side up, gripping the trunk like a woodpecker. With that done, he shimmied swiftly down the tree, but not without the notice of the avengers of the wrong he had committed. The remaining magpies again began to rebuke him with their squawking: “ Aha! Aha!”, following him at a safe distance with no intent of permitting him to leave their keen sight as he trotted along the forest floor. One even made a swoop at his offensive figure and together the symphony of severity, and the cat to which it was dedicated, made their way through the woods and out of sight, the “ Aha!” calls in the end hardly discernible from the rustle of twig and leaf. 

Black-billed Magpie

Pica hudsonia

The Resplendent Quetzal of North America, this bird is magnificent enough to rival the dramatic beauties of tropical lands. Its carrion and garbage-eating habits are not to be repulsed, for it is the janitor of nature. Without it and similar birds, this world would be covered with the remains of dead animals. Its appetite ( as well as those of other birds and animals) for fledglings, eggs and young is no different then our consumption of eggs and lamb. The Black-billed Magpie was not commonly in the prairies until the fields were developed for agriculture. It was at this time that the bird moved in. Besides eating animal matter, this Corvid also is a helpful destroyer of insect pests.  

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Wednesday September 22, 2021