Kookaburra sits…….

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I saw it out of my bedroom window, which was a feat in itself as I can barely see straight first thing in the morning.

He was caught in a beam of early morning sunlight and even though I couldn’t see too well it looked amazing.

He was too far away for an iPhone shot and it crossed my mind that by the time I got my camera unwrapped and staggered out onto the front verandah, he would be gone.

As you can see, he waited for me.

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If my brain hadn’t been caffeine deficient I would have remembered.

Kookaburras are VERY patient.

About three decades ago we lived on the side of a hill in Belgrave.

It was our first house and we loved it very much. It did not have the character of the house we live in now but we loved it’s modern simplicity.

This house had a large wooden deck on the side facing the view and a family of Kookaburras (yes, they hang out in large family groups) would visit often as the previous owners would hand feed them delicious meaty treats. The adults were reasonably fearless and would delicately take a slice of ham off your open palm without doing you any damage. The young ones were a bit clumsy and sometimes you would end up with a beak mark in the palm of your hand. After a while, we got very good at recognising the young ones. We put their treat on the railing!

I had a huge workshop at this house which my father and I built (my brother helped a bit). I remember going into my workshop one morning and noticing a Kookaburra sitting on a branch of a tree nearby. He was still there when I went up to the house for lunch and still there when I got back. Early in the afternoon, I saw him dive into the long grass and come up with a lizard.

He sat on that branch for at least four hours waiting for something edible to move in the very long grass. I guess he had done it many times before and he knew what worked, but I have to admire this creature’s patience and persistence.

Kookaburras are a biggish bird, at least as big as a crow and other smaller birds drive them away during Spring as they are known to kill young birds.

In Australia, they are much loved and they received a positive reputation amongst the settlers as they hunt snakes, but they do have a darker side (if that is possible when talking about animals).

When we moved to this house we thought that we would be able to continue a relationship with these beautiful birds but it was not to be; until now.

There does not seem to be many nesting sites close to us and as these birds stick to a geographical zone (and they fiercely protect their territory) we were disappointed.

About a decade ago a neighbour noticed that there was a pair of birds nesting in the hollow of one of her Gumtrees. As the years have gone by and breeding seasons have come and gone the family has gotten bigger and their area of influence has gradually come to include our house so we get quite frequent visits but alas they will not come close enough for us to feed them.

We have had a similar experience with a Magpie family in recent years and our property is all the richer for having these larger birds visit.

Even though I was using a long lens and I was being as quiet as my confused, early morning brain could manage he did notice that I was there.

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They have excellent eyesight.

After I staggered back to bed with my precious cup of coffee Zed noticed the bird, which is pretty remarkable as dogs don’t have great eyesight but I guess the bird moved slightly and it caught Zed’s attention.

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Zed is always on the lookout and he can see my neighbours chickens through that window if they wander down toward the creek, so I guess it was in his field of view.

I have to say that this was a really good way to start my day.

The Rat

 

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Living near a creek and being surrounded by neighbours who keep chickens I am no stranger to the sight of rats, I even mowed over the top of one once, but that was way up at the back of the property.

In the thirty-six years, we have been home owners we have never had a rat inside the house………….. until now!

When it happened, I was alone.

It was Easter and Matt was spending time with his geographically impossible lady friend, and Scotty was in Adelaide visiting our granddaughter and the parents of our granddaughter.

My first hint that something was up was at about two o’clock on Good Friday morning. I was half awake half asleep when I thought that I felt one of the dogs walk across my feet. It took a second, but my brain eventually worked out that both of the dogs were curled up next to me. Within a nano second Zed, our part Maltese terrier shot off the bed in hot pursuit without making a sound, which is unusual for Zed as he usually barks if he picks up something unusual. His silence was unnerving, but my fatigue outweighed my curiosity, so I went back to sleep.

During the night I got up to go to the toilet, and for some reason, I decided to close the bathroom door, or at least to pull it almost shut.

The next morning I was sitting up in bed reading when I noticed what shall be known from now on as The Rat when it went bouncing by my bedroom door!

I don’t remember my exact words, but it went something like, “Holy Shit!”

It was obviously too big to be a mouse. Mice are easily caught, but this was a rat!

I tracked it into the lounge room, and I could hear it under the couch munching on something.

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I went into Superman mode and picked up the couch. I don’t think I had worked out what I was going to do next as I was pretty much working on instinct at this stage but I could see it’s tail, it’s very long tail.

I tried to move the couch just a little bit more and ‘bang’, my back went out.

Now I’m trapped in a house with a rat and a bad back.

This day was not starting off too well.

At about this point I stopped reacting and started thinking.

In the past when we have had a possum come down the chimney I have simply left the nearest door open, and the frightened animal finds the escape route; problem solved.

The problem this time was that the rat wanted to get back to the bathroom as evidenced by the chew marks on the bottom corner of the almost closed bathroom door. I had inadvertently cut off his escape route.

The ‘leave the door open’ plan still seemed like a good one, but I had to stop the rat doubling back and heading for the bathroom, so I blocked off the doorway (this room does not have an internal door) using a large chipboard backed poster. My hope was that the rat would think that it was a continuation of the wall and would eventually work it’s way around to the open door.

At this point, it had moved from under the couch and was hiding behind the stereo equipment, and I could hear it scratching. A while later it moved across the room and hid behind the DVD shelves, which did not bode well for my plan as it had to walk past the open door to get to its new hiding place!

It stayed in that room all day, and the dogs were very confused and kept looking at me as they had never been stopped from going in there.

Night fell, and still, the scratching continued.

Eventually, it became obvious that I was going to have to make a decision about the whole open door thing.

I figured that as this rat was most active at night, there was a good chance that it might find it’s way out during the night but this meant sleeping with the front door open all night.

My desire to have this rodent out of my house outweighed my discomfort at sleeping with an open door and the added bonus of the house filling up with mosquitoes.

Next morning it was still there scratching away.

I have to admit that my heart sunk, just a little, but I come from hardy stock and bravery in the face of the enemy was a hallmark of my ancestors, so I checked in every hour to see if the noise had stopped and a couple of times I thought that it had only to hear it start-up again.

At about five o’clock on that afternoon I checked again, and the noise was gone never to return which was just as well as the messages I was receiving from Scotty were hinting that she was retreating to a hotel when she arrived back from Adelaide if the rat was not gone!

The first stage of the campaign was complete, but I quickly realised that the war was not over as the rat could still return to the house through the weakness in the bathroom.

Now, it has always been understood in our family that we do not kill creatures when they find their way into our house. We do our best to remove them without harm. We are not always successful, and there has been the occasional fatality, but by and large, we do our best to ‘live and let live’.

This situation, unfortunately, required a different approach.

As the ‘pack leader, ‘ it is my responsibility to see that my ‘pack‘ remains safe and a rat is a very real danger to the dogs and humans who live peacefully here.

I don’t like poison baits as they are indiscriminate killers and can continue to do damage even after the intended target is dead.

Every night for the next several days I put baits down in the bathroom and locked the door.

For the next three day, the baits were gone by morning. Was this a super rat or did he bring his posse with him each night!

On the fourth morning, the baits were untouched and have remained so until now.

The deadly deed appears to have been done.

Whether we like it or not, as males, we are expected to do certain things like dealing with mice and rats and spiders.

Despite my nickname (spider), I have been terrified by them for most of my life, but in recent times my fear has abated as I have actively studied them. It seemed to me that a lot of fear comes from ignorance so if I remove the ignorance the fear should go away. Well, I would not exactly say that it has gone away but it is definitely under control, and I have come to be fascinated by these amazing creatures.

In my family, we have always tackled problems together, and there is strength in numbers, I have been very lucky to have such a strong and supportive family.

Things have settled down since then, and there have been other challenges come along to replace this one, but there is a good chance that 2012 will go down in family history as ‘the year of the rat’.