Virginia Barton

11 August 2017: One for Sorrow, Two for Joy


11 August 2017


The pica pica bird has moved in. I speak of the magpie, a handsome toff of a bird with glossy plumage. But mean.

I grow quite savage when I see one and rush into the garden flapping a tea towel and making great whooshing noises as ugly as the bird’s raucous chattering.

For this flashy creature has no proper song. He is of the family corvidae, a numerous group, threatening in size and appearance. However, his coz, the crow, is a rare visitor with his caw caw and knows to keep his distance; as do rooks, ravens and jays. I haven’t knowingly seen a jackdaw for years.

The magpie is pushy; a gate-crasher and unwelcome guest who doesn’t know when to leave. (Pigeons are positive poppets by comparison.) Blackbird and robin used to wake me in the morning, now it’s a wretched magpie.

As they are protected, one can’t shoot or poison them. (Would you really do either of those things, Gin?) The only way to get rid of them is with Larsen traps; large and cumbersome cages, baited preferably with a female magpie — caught previously in a Larsen trap… (Eh?)


Are they decimating our songbird population? Not according to the RSPB website. Well, I’m not so sure about that.

I personally have witnessed one dive-bombing a hedge where I know sparrows nested and now no longer do; and they were guilty of the wanton destruction of a row of house martin’s nests in the eaves of our roof. I saw them do it.

Handsome is as handsome does, and magpies do not.


Here’s a silly rhyme you can chant in the garden instead of flapping a tea-towel. It’s called “NIMBY”:

Cocky robin, little wren, cheery blackbird, crow!
Come and hop among my flowers
Where nasturtium grow.
Blue tit, pecker, sparrow-chick
Bathe and splash and dip,
Only see the magpie off
lest I hurl a brick.

It will take more than that feeble verse to persuade Mr Magpie to move on, I fear.




  • Nadine says on: August 11, 2017 at 2:51 am


    On the eve of our daughter’s wedding, I would whole-heartedly agree with this magpie proverb, were it not for the very many single people I know who are not sorrowful…

    It brings to my mind one of my favourite amusing “quotes” from Nancy Mitford who says to the bride in answer to the question: “Do I look pretty in my wedding dress, Nanny?”

    “Well, no-body’s going to be looking at you, dear!”

    • Ginny says on: August 11, 2017 at 12:57 pm


      Oh my goodness Nadine! Blessings and all happiness to your daughter and her prospective husband. May all the good fairies be at the wedding (alongside Mr Sunshine) and angels; let there be angels for those who don’t believe in fairies.

      Am tempted to bad-mouth Nanny — of course the bride will look gorgeous, and for sure everyone will be looking at her!

      Throwing a handful of virtual rose petals, Ginny

  • Bee says on: August 11, 2017 at 3:10 pm


    Just caught four magpies within 24 hours ….. garden birds now safe for a while ….

    • Ginny says on: August 11, 2017 at 5:08 pm


      Come round my way any time Bee! Did you have a Larsen trap or were you lassooing them? Havn’t they got cruel beaks? Why did you have such a crowd of them I wonder? Gin

  • Coal-Filled Wellies says on: August 11, 2017 at 4:12 pm


    A much better ditty than One For Sorrow, though I do like the 1960’s arrangement of it for Magpie, ITV’s answer to the BBC’s Blue Peter.

    • Ginny says on: August 11, 2017 at 6:19 pm


      I can’t say I remember the music for ITV’s Magpie, Wellies, though I do Blue Peter’s nautical jig. Re-reading Bee’s comment reminds me it’s Four for a Boy. Ginny

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