Swooping season

Two magpies swooping a cyclist on a country road

Attack: Magpies and some other native birds will swoop people near their nests.

It’s the eve of the Grand Final of Australian Rules Football and on the mind of far too many cyclists is whether the magpies will win.  By the time we get to read this article the AFL premiership team for 2010 season will be known but still on the mind of many cyclists will be whether the magpies will give them a good smacking next time they are out on the road.  Yes it is Springtime, the season of swooping birds and the magpies are quite aggressive this year albeit just for a season and they will quieten down unlike if the Magpies win the Grand Final the noise could go on for years how they gave their opposition a good smack around the ears.

The following statement from the Department of Sustainability and Environment was released a short time ago how they are bringing technology to the rescue, including using Twitter to plot the hotspots. The Department has launched a new campaign—The Swoop!—to improve safety this swooping season.

“This year, we are taking a more technology based approach to spread the message about avoiding bird swooping areas,” a spokesman said.

“We have set up a ‘magpie map’ to show swooping hotspots in Victoria, and are encouraging communities to let DSE know via twitter, email or the call centre where these hot spots are so that DSE can plot them on the Magpie Map on the DSE website. Report the swooping location by emailing swoopvic@dse.vic.gov.au, telephoning 136 186 or sending a tweet of the details including #swoopvic in the message.”

The DSE website also has an online toolkit ‘The Swoop Off kit’, including Top Tips, a ‘Beware: Swooping Birds in the Area’ poster and a set of printable ‘eyes’ to stick on the back of helmets or caps. You can also get information explaining why birds swoop, the key birds that swoop, and ways to avoid or protect yourself, all leading to enhanced protection of native swooping birds and of course, people’s safety. Native birds, including Australian Magpies and plovers (Masked Lapwings), are highly protective of their eggs, nest and young and will often ‘swoop’ unsuspecting passers-by if they feel threatened. Only small percentage of birds attack during spring as a ‘warning’ to ward off intruders to their territory.

The best strategies are to avoiding the area completely and not to try and scare, attack or remove the bird. Native birds are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975 and it is an offence to harass or destroy native birds or their eggs. Complete information is available at the Swoop website.  This got me thinking about trying to find out where the hot spots around Bendigo may well be. Most cyclists are quite regimented in their set routes so we asked across the cycling network to share their magpie experiences.  Thanks predominately to Jacquie Anderson and others the following is but a snap shot of the local cycling routes being magpie affected as to being moderate, aggressive or very aggressive.

  • Calder Highway to Maiden Gully near Wicks Road (Moderate)
  • Corner of Simpsons Road and Neilborough Road (Very Aggressive)
  • Goynes Road on North side of the White Hills Oval (Very Aggressive persistent)
  • Howard Street between shop and creek crossing near the school (Moderate)
  • After Piepers Hill on Strathfieldsaye Main Road – start of straight section (Moderate)
  • Near winery at end of Cahills Road (Moderate)
  • Emu Creek Road going up the hill towards Eppalock Road after crossing Hargreaves Road (Very Aggressive persistent/clever)
  • End of Axe Creek Road between Bridge and Axe Creek Road heading back into Bendigo (Moderate to Aggressive)
  • Corner of Brougham Street and Reginald Street Quarry Hill (Moderate).
  • Don Street up from Beehworth Bakery going up the hill towards Barnard Street. (Very Aggressive)
  • Russell Street over Olinda Street near Queens Arms Hotel heading up the hill towards the cemetery (Aggressive).

There is a risk associated with magpies that must be not underestimated if you have a fear being around swooping  magpies and it is that of loosing control of your bike in riding a straight line.  While our attention maybe looking around at the bird to see where and what angle they may be launching their next attack we can wander across the road without realizing. This year have had a few good smacks and bangs and think wow that must hurt the bird hitting the end of my helmet at that pace. Most magpies seem to work on a radius of 500 off metres which seems ages when they have launched their 4th attack. Enjoy the Spring Cycling and take heart it’s only for a season we share the road with the black and white magpie!

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing

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