Friday, 1 October 2010

My Mallacoota Magpies

'Look sharp, Doris - here comes the Sausage Lady!'

They wait for me now, several times a day. They sit on the feeder box, peering through the window, and when I appear they shuffle about on the side of the box to attract my attention. Sometimes they sing. Occasionally Mrs Hoppy grooms her bloke's feathers. Yesterday's conversation was, I'm certain, something like this:

“Come on, Hoppy dear, you need to look your best.” (Doris picks affectionately at Hoppy's head, tidying an unruly feather).

“Leave me alone, Doris. Women find the ruffled look very attractive.” (Shakes head. Doris hops aside, a bit indignant).

“Well at least sing, dear. They like it when you sing.”

“I'm not singing, Doris. You can sing all you bloody like – I'm too hungry to sing. Ooh, ooh, look, here she comes. Look sharp, Doris.”

Mr & Mrs Hoppy are my greatest fans. I keep a stash of cooked sausages in the fridge, and they're big fans of that too. This morning, Hoppy was sitting wonkily on the feeder box, so I dutifully hacked off a few bits of sausage and went out. Doris, who must've been putting on her mascara or something, arrived late and almost flew into the back of my head in her hurry to take her place next to hubby and get her share of the goodies.

They happily take food from my hand, but they have very different ways of doing it. Hoppy is a bit rough, and stabs at my hand greedily. His missus is gentler, daintier and more precise. She also has far better table manners.

Hoppy stuffs the whole bit of sausage in his beak, almost choking himself in his hurry to get it down. Perhaps, disabled lad that he is, he's had to gobble his food quickly to stop others stealing it from him. Life can't be easy for a bird with a gammy leg.

Mrs Hoppy, on the other hand, takes her time with her sausage morsel. She bashes it on the ground to kill it properly, then rolls it in the dust to season it. She whittles away at it with her beak, taking small mouthfuls until it's all gone. Then she carefully, fastidiously even, wipes the sides of her beak. Meanwhile, Hoppy has managed to stab and scoff two or three more bits, and the pair of them fly away home until they get peckish again. And then - it's back to the Sausage Lady to do it all over again.

I have to head home tomorrow. I'll miss them.

Smooth operator Hoppy: 'So, babe, do you come here often? Love those sausages.'

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