Wednesday, July 05, 2006


I’m heading towards the clothesline with a basketful of wet washing when I hear the sound of a rifle. I say to myself. ‘That sounds close.’ And it was. For there’s Bert sitting on his ma’s sofa with the 2.2 balanced on the back of a chair and he’s firing out the window…

What in the name of God are you at? Can a woman not hang out her laundry about this place without running the risk of being shot?

I’m just setting the sights on this to see if I can get a few magpies.

Right then. Seeing as you look like a maniac I’m going to get my camera. Hang on there for a minute.

Meanwhile Pearlie is sitting on the other sofa calm as you like watching ‘Deal Or No Deal’. She thoroughly approves of magpie killing.


Bert’s Aunt Lizzie was up at the weekend and she was giving off bucketfuls about the amount of young magpies about this place. They are beautiful birds but not much liked about the countryside. Lizzie told Bert he ought to cull them and Pearlie agreed.

A few weeks back at Matty’s house one of my cousins was relating with relish the numbers of magpies that she and her husband were trapping in Larsen cages. They farm sheep and it’s a common belief among sheep farmers that magpies kill new-born lambs by pulling at the remains of the umbilical cord and pecking for gizzards with their sharp-bladed bills.

Song and hedge bird lovers aren’t too enamoured of the magpie either. In gardens they are second only to the domestic cat as a predator of songbirds and fledglings. It is estimated that magpies destroy 20 million songbird eggs a year.

The Game Conservancy Trust, a Hampshire-based conservation body, is inclined to agree. Its own research, supported by the eco-baronet Sir Jonathan Porritt, suggests that magpies are a significant factor in the recent steep decline in the number of British songbirds.

The Game Conservancy now sells hundreds of £66 Larsen traps to the public. These multiple-boxed, spring-doored devices… lure magpies into a cage by using the call of an already trapped bird. When two birds are in the trap it's time to remove one, kill it, and use the survivor to summon another.

This cull is legal. Magpies were classified as a pest in the 1981 Wildlife Act. "You cannot just kill them for aesthetic reasons," says the Game Conservancy's Morag Walker. "It's not good enough just to hate them. But killing them to protect other wildlife is permitted." The traps are infinitely preferable to the poison that people used to put down. Link

Meanwhile back at the Nellybert ranch Pearlie’s wee dog Penny had ran off terrified by the noise of gunfire in her living room. And could you blame her? Pearlie was raging.

Ye had no need to be shooting that gun in here. Could ye not have shot it in yeer ain hoose?

Bert and I were sent off to find her, which was no easy task. We searched the houses, looked in the sheds and tramped the fields. The wee dog has a bad heart, likely brought on by a diet of shop-bought cake and buns, and we were convinced she’d taken a heart attack and died in a ditch. Bert was off through the fields and I’d just returned from an extensive tour of the verges and ditches looking for a wee doggy corpse when Pearlie hailed me and indicated Penny at her feet.

Where was she?

No reply. Pearlie stared at me balefully. I asked again. My request for information went unanswered again. Eventually she said,
Och she came from over there somewhere.

So I went to find Bert and I told him of Pearlie’s delight at the return of her wee dog and of her gratitude at our hour-long search for her.

He said,

She has about as much charm at her as a... as a…

As a rattlesnake?

Aye! D’ye fancy eating rabbit? I could shoot us a rabbit. I’d skin it and everything.

Oh yes! I'd eat rabbit. That would be awesome.

I don't think so. You can hop in peace bunnies. You are safe from Bert. He’ll never hit you. Not with his gun anyway. Maybe with his van.

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.

According to Terry Pratchett:
There are many rhymes about magpies, but none of them are very reliable, because they are not the ones the magpies know.


hootchinhannah said...

Jamie would also be on for Bert culling the magpies. Even though he's a vegetarian and loves the animals he says it's ok to kill magpies. That's his superstitions.

Nelly said...

Best not for Jamie to do it though. Knowing his luck.

hootchinhannah said...

Aye, he'd only miss the magpie, shoot his car in the tyre and then the magpie would shit on his head. Knowing his luck.

EveMaryBD said...

Tell Bert to be careful - Damian's friend Jock tried shooting at a few magpies last year and killed his neighbours Dog! Well thats the excuse he gave his neighbour - who came around with his shotgun to reciprocate!

Nelly said...

I feel there is more to this tale than you're telling!

jazzthefunk said...

kill the magpies, six of them! It was witnessed, the slaughter of a likkle sparrow by two magpies (ripped it to shreads), by my mother in our garden it really upset her, proof enough of their evilness. You should score it the same bert so go for the gold i reckons so thats six ya have to kill. : )