12 August, 2008

Revenge of the Maksed Lapwing

Masked Lapwings on the market ground in Yungaburra. On the bird below you can see the spur on the wing.
Masked Lapwings occupy any large piece of open ground. Also know as spur-winged plovers, these are noisy birds. They take insect and other invertebrates from in the grass. Normally quite shy of people they will follow mowers as they are disturbing insects for the Lapwings' dinner.
When nesting on the open ground or when with young, they defend their progeny with vigour. Our northern subspecies has these large facial wattles but small spurs. The black on the head extends down the back of the neck of southern birds and around the bend of the wing. Those southern birds are much more apt to actually strike their invader.
When I was teaching down south a pair nested in an unused corner of our school grounds. The children were warned to stay away. During a morning tea break one of my year six students was seen heading in the direction of the nest. I opened the staff room window to yell at him but thinking about the energy needed to project my voice through the cold spring wind and over eighty children and sixty metres, I closed the window and sat down. He continued on his way as I watched.
First one bird swooped on him and then the second joined in. They attacked from different directions. While one had the boy's attention the other clipped him from behind. The spurting of blood was obvious from my chair.
Grabbing a pad and a bandage I directed a colleague to call the boy's mother and if I was to wave vigorously then an ambulance as well.

Mum took the contrite and bandaged brigand off to hospital.

Just before the end of classes for the day I observed the mother on the school steps going towards the office. I remember thinking that I had misjudged that family as I had not expected thanks or an apology. When I entered the principals office in response to his summons I was ready to graciously receive her thanks.

"I will. You can't stop me. I'm going to sue him," she was almost shouting.

Normally slow to anger, this triggered a different response in me, "You'll what! You silly woman? And for what?" After pointing out that there was such a thing a malicious suit and that I would have the full support of the union and my employer I found the cause of her grief.

The pad I had used was just that, a sanitary napkin. At the hospital the nurses had laughed to see one put to such good but alternative use. I had brought her son into derision; made him a 'laughing stock.'

I turned on my heel and walked out. We never heard from the woman again!

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