The other day a colleague spotted a bird next to the nest it built near the top of a mast. The mast supports an aerial network which the Observatory used in the old days to receive radio broadcasts of weather data and charts from elsewhere in the world. The network is a declared heritage item.
A colleague from the Agricultural and Fishery Conservation Department kindly confirms that the bird is a common magpie.
Common in suburban areas, the magpie can be identified by its long tail, some 20 centimetres on the ones we see at the Observatory. Its tail can often been seen sticking out of the nest as it busies itself with building or reinforcing the nest.
The old nest underneath is being used by some other birds.
Magpies are often seen resting on the verandah of the Observatory 1883 Building. They do not avoid people. An interesting tidbit about magpie is that it is the only non-mammal that recognizes itself in a mirror. Even your pet dog or cat cannot do that.
During her visit in June this year, Dr Jane Goodall, renowned expert on wildlife, shared her experience with chimpanzees, demonstrating to Observatory colleagues how chimpanzees said hello to each other. She visited our small history room and was briefed about the Observatory's past. On the way she saw the nests and was amazed. She later wrote to tell us that it would be 'wicked' if the Observatory lost the heritage. The magpie and other birds in the compound are obviously part of that.