This year could be termed ‘the Year of the Magpie’. There seem to be more of these birds (pica pica) around in 2021 than any year I can recall. Depending on your viewpoint, there’s an abundance, excess, or plague of these distinctive, precocious characters.

A long-term birdwatcher, I’ve long been drawn to these noisy Corvid (had to mind my spelling there!) brain-boxes. I enjoy observing the tilt of their heads as they work things out - or am I being too anthropomorphic? They’re bright, voluble members of the ‘chattering classes’.

They, and their jackdaw cousins, have received a bad press down the years, deservedly or not. One criticism levelled at magpies refers to them ‘doing what comes naturally’ with their perceived depredations of garden bird chicks and eggs. There’s some discussion over their actual impact.

Alongside Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones, magpies ‘starred’ in that sublime BBC TV comedy and idyll, ‘Detectorists’- for my licence fee one of the best series ever on the telly. As if that wasn’t enough, the programmes were graced by the Unthanks’ brilliantly haunting ‘The Magpie Song’.

Derek Reed, Middlethorpe Drive, York