“You can’t have too many leafy greens” is the refrain from our household, playing in my head as I collect the bag of home grown lettuce from the car fridge, in readiness for lunch. It’s a truism, balancing the negative but irresistible energy of the fish and chips soon to arrive.
The pied flautist perched above me warbles its approval – that melody which never grows wearisome. We are here in the tent on the coast for a few days, away from our inland home. The magpie song varies markedly between locations and one day I might have my ear in enough to pick the difference. But not yet.
Different people have different responses to magpies. Being swooped is no fun but the colourful cable ties on my bike helmet might offer some protection, as well as being a talking point in my small home town. And in any case I like to think I have a rapport with these songbirds who inhabit the hoop pine of our backyard and benefit from the sweet offerings I find while digging the garden.
I casually inspect the green mignonette, alert to the garden mulch or an unknown sprig of weed that often enough comes along for the ride. But there, quite surprisingly, is it. A small huntsman curled up in a ball. Never seen that before. That it’s curled tight is no surprise, having spent the previous 24 hours at four degrees. I poke it with a finger and get only the slightest reaction, but it’s clearly alive.
I leave the leaf with its passenger on the table, out of direct sunlight and wait, checking its condition every now and then, looking for the vital signs of a recovery. After a few minutes, during which my personal serenade continues at intervals, I place the spider on its lettuce leaf bed against the trunk of a tree. And wait, watchfully, from a short distance, as I go back to the leafy greens, decorating with red and yellow cherry tomatoes from the garden. Plus a few black kalamatas’ from the deli.
The spider stretches its legs, looking to be well on the way to recovery. I’m not thinking rescue, just a fair go for a poor critter after a cold night, not of its own making. Slowly it moves off the lettuce leaf, through the grass. A job well done I feel.
Then, the magpie swoops, plucks the spider and shakes it vigorously, before flinging it through the air to land a short distance away. Magpie hops over and repeats the exercise, plucking, shaking and flinging. Three times it does this during which I get an image of a David Attenborough doco where a pair of killer whales fling a seal back and forth between each other. Just for fun it seems. Here though, there there’s only the one magpie, having fun, or preparing its meal, I do not know. Not quite Nature, red in tooth and claw, but still the natural way of things.
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