No one could help Maggie, the celebrity magpie of Oak Flats, the last time calamity struck.
She flew around for days with a piece of fishing line wrapped tight around one leg. People tried to catch her, to loosen the string, but she was too fast. Eventually her foot fell clean off, and Maggie, also known as Stumpy, became the most recognisable bird in Oak Flats.
Angela Hollen was among the residents who took an interest in the black and white verandah visitor.
In the two years since, she has noticed the bird making a happy enough home for itself in the park at Deakin Reserve, moving into the tall trees, finding a mate, and getting on with life on two wings, one leg.
“We kept an eye on her because she’d ended up being a stumpy,” Mrs Hollen said. “If there were really bad storms she’d come back under our deck and ride it out, because if it’s really windy it’s hard to hold on with one foot.”
“This season we noticed her collecting stuff for a nest.”
But string is a wily temptress, for a magpie. Preparing for motherhood, Maggie recently built a nest made almost entirely of the stuff.
Mrs Hollen wondered if the magpie’s delivery day had arrived on Monday, when she heard the bird loudly crying, sounding distressed. She used binoculars to find the source of the noise and saw Maggie 20 metres up, entangled once more in string and unable to fly free.
“We saw her hanging by her one good leg. Literally upside down,” Mrs Hollen said. “We thought, ‘oh no, how are we going to get her down’, because it was way too high for us.”
Mrs Hollen made several calls to emergency services before Police Rescue took an interest in the bird’s plight. They called on a uniquely qualified SES volunteer – Scott Robinson, a full-time arborist and member of Coniston and Wollongong units. Mr Robinson scaled the tree while curious passers-by stopped to ask Mrs Hollen what was happening. “They all said, ‘it’s not the one legged magpie?’,” she said. “She’s a bit of a legend around here. She’s a little Aussie battler. I think that’s why we love her.”
Mr Robinson cut a branch off the tree and brought the stricken bird safely to the ground, still tethered.
Mrs Hollen paid tribute to the great human effort devoted to the rescue. “I can’t praise Police Rescue and the SES enough. They really went out of their way for one little bird and if it wasn’t for them we would have had to watch her suffer a painful death up a tree. It would have been devastating for the whole neighbourhood.”
Maggie has been placed in the care of a WIRES volunteer. At last report she was still recovering from shock and dehydration, and was awaiting a visit from a specialist avian vet.