Normally, the front garden seems big enough to accommodate carrion crows, magpies and a varying number of grey squirrels. Now, in days of frost and rime, things aren't quite normal.
The pair of magpies has been watching where and when the squirrels have been finding food. Gradually, the magpies have been getting closer to the action. Yesterday, as the frost melted, the game changed. A magpie made a lunge for walnut the squirrel had just unearthed.
The squirrel won, retreating onto a stump, and cracking open and eating the contents. As it did so, magpie jumped forwards. Immediately, the squirrel turned fully side on: enlarging its profile and expanding its tail to maximum width. The initial effect was to stop the magpie in its tracks, which then reconsidered tactics and tried again. There ensued a standoff of lunge and retreat as the squirrel flashed its maximum threat profile again and again, whilst running round the back and front of the stump.
As this standoff began to move towards the magpie's advantage, the squirrel leapt off the stump and jumped onto a fraying child's rope on a small oak. There it swang, chattering up and down as it lurched, for all the world shouting at a bully just out of reach: nahnah nah nah nah. The magpie? Seeing that it was on a no-brainer, it changed tack and flew off so see what its mate was eating.