The Magpies of Castlemaine

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I was fortunate to get to ride around Castlemaine several years ago.  There is some incredible cycling to be had around there.  Mount Alexander is only about 20 km’s North West of the town, which rises to 744 metres above sea level (350 metres from its base).  With two main climbs which can be climbed from 4 different directions. 

The one thing that stands out about Castlemaine was its Magpies.  I have never experienced such determined little aggressive suckers.  Most of them would try and hit you & grab onto your helmet.  I also had a couple dig their claws into my shoulders.  The scary thing was you couldn’t out run them.  They’d be prepared to follow you for up to 3-4 km’s, and I’d be racing along at 35 – 40 km/h on a flat.  They would follow me as easy as pie.  If you turned your back on one, thwack you’d get a whack on the back of the helmet.  I had to spend a lot of time looking over my shoulders which seemed to keep them at bay.  One got so bad that I pulled off the road and grabbed a stick & threatened it before it would leave me alone.

I’ve learned a new appreciation for Magpies after riding in Castlemaine.  I had some mechanical issues and had to take my bike to the local bike store, and was relaying my horror stories of my attacks.  The guys there seemed as calm as pie about the Magpies, and one quipped:

at least we’re giving them some exercise!”.

I took a lot from my experience and realised that there is only fear if you fear them.  In the majority of cases Magpies will just try to scare you, and their grace & coordination is extraordinary.  If they were intending to claw you, they will.  So if you don’t feel any claws, and just hear that snap of their wings, I’ve learned to just relax.  The worst that most of them will do is annoy you.  After all they’re only trying to protect their young.  In saying that, if I do feel a claw hit me, then I ride like a bat out of hell!

The Magpies of Castlemaine
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