Daylight Robbery

magpie on electric wire

Daylight Robbery

Mairi Neil

In the fading light atop a wire
Mrs Magpie ponders life turned dire
her home’s been lopped
a safe haven chopped
habitat devastated as if by fire

Her brood wanders aimlessly below
pecking and scratching as they go
poking the ground
a discordant sound
a disoriented shambling tableau

How sad the Magpies’ plight
witnessed in the dying light
no nesting to bed
confusion instead
will they find another treed site?


Dawn breaks to joyous a song
a chorus from the magpie throng
what a delight
no fly-by-night
this neighbourhood they still belong

It may be a lesson in adaptation
like migrant naturalisation
not an easy move
from comfort’s groove
but necessity and preservation

tree surviving after demolition

As humans continue to multiply
needing houses to build and buy
the land will be cleared
as if blowtorch seared
what then for the family Magpie?

I wonder if down the track we’ll be reading about magpies ‘returning to the suburbs’ after being thought extinct.

An ABC report about Bush stone-curlews being spotted in Canberra and returning to suburbs is heartening but also a warning about how the loss of habitat dislocates and may destroy wildlife.

Thank goodness there are people prepared to put expertise, effort and resources into saving species. (Too late unfortunately for the white rhino...)

Environmental change can be rapid but also less obvious and often public policy plays catch up. It was 1972 before I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, an environmental science book published on 27 September 1962 when I was only nine years old.

We are still dealing with the issues she raised and even more serious ones.

greenery mordialloc.jpg

The book had a profound effect on me because it documented the adverse effects on the environment of the indiscriminate use of pesticides.

In 1972, I was involved with the Aboriginal Embassy protest in Canberra and for the first time had deep and meaningful conversations with Indigenous Australians, learning about their country and how the importance for culture and survival depended on their (and ultimately our) relationship with the land.

children at gardenworld.jpg



3 thoughts on “Daylight Robbery

  1. Yes, this is happening near us as a new development takes place in the street behind ours. Five well-established trees gone, apparently to be replaced by bamboo.
    But I am optimistic: when I first moved here there was not an indigenous bird to be seen. Housing estates of the 1950s razed every tree to the ground, and they were replaced not by natives but by ornamentals and so on. Even when in the 1970s many of us started planting natives to attract native birds they were few and far between.
    Yet today in our little patch of suburbia we have magpies, ravens, parrots, honeyeaters and those little green finches (which I think are indigenous) and even once a kookaburra! Birds are, as you say, more adaptable than we think…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope so Lisa. Since living here for 34 years I’ve seen waves of birds come and go – the drought of early 2000s changed the balance, as well as development (fewer cockies and galahs and more lorikeets). I think the last kookaburra nesting in Bradshaw Park left in the 80s so you’re lucky! Edithvale Wetlands gave a big boost to birds having a stopover (and I’ve witnessed some delightfully unusual ones) but as indigenous trees and plants are replaced by ornamentals like you say, or trees just disappear, so do the birds. Even the Aussie ravens seem fewer – they used to proliferate scavenging around the railway station but too much human activity there at the moment. I will share your optimism that they’ll adapt but be ever vigilant as I walk around the streets:)


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