I was standing on the steps halfway up to the top garden the other day when something large and dark swished by my head. It was a Magpie, Cracticus tibicen, unrelated to the Old World Corvidae version you might be familiar with.
We don't often see them here. They are denizens of open farmland and only occasionally vagrant to our adjoining township. This one landed on the hillside next to us and stalked beneath the trees, looking for foundling chicks and treating R's attempt to photograph it with frosty contempt.
There is something deeply and inexplicably sinister about these birds, far more so than the crows and ravens I met in Australia. They are accomplished mimics and soon master anyone afforded the dubious privilege of their adoptive company, bending them to their inscrutable avian will. I have tremendous respect, if not too much affection for them.
Watching this one stride between the pools of shade beneath the trees was like spying on a shapeshifter satisfying its appetites in an alternate form.