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IT’S FOR THE BIRDS! PART 2

In this second article of a two-part series, Peter Lamond continues sharing some of his past experiences in bird control and looks at how far the pest management industry has progressed with bird control and management.

Driving range woes (and crows)

A golf driving range at Ryde was having trouble with crows stealing their golf balls. At last count they had stolen over 1000 and the manager was justifiably upset. He had tried enlisting a team of vehicles equipped with two-way radios to follow the birds to their cache but without luck. We glibly informed him that we could solve his problem, so early one morning we placed out baits. About 15 crows were soon asleep on the grass.

“What are you going to do with those?” asked the manager. “We’ll dispose of them,” I replied.

“Don’t worry about that,” he said. “Leave them with me. I’ll freeze them and hang one on the fence to scare the other crows away. When it wears out, I’ll defrost another.”

I heard later, from a perplexed council environmental health surveyor that this was what he actually did for months before the council put a stop to it.

Magpie sandwiches

Another bird problem raised its ugly head at a bakery not far from the driving range. This time however, it was magpies, currawongs and crows that were destroying vast quantities of bread on the loading dock before it could be loaded onto delivery trucks. We obtained a permit from the National Parks and Wildlife Service to relocate seven birds and move them to a distant location. As the job was done on a Saturday, I was not involved. On the Monday morning I asked the branch supervisor how they had fared.

“Did you get the seven birds okay?” I asked. “Seven plus five,” he replied. With startling speed I carried out the calculation.

“Twelve? You removed twelve birds! We only had a permit for seven!”

“No, seven plus five equals seventy-five. We caught seventy-five birds. We were on a roll.”

“I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know!”

I shall draw a veil over the rest of the conversation, just in the interests of self-preservation although none of it was my fault.

‘Not Dead, Only Sleeping’

In case that sounds familiar, you’d be right. A company spokesman was replying to accusations that we had killed numerous pigeons and seagulls at Elizabeth Bay House, a famous historic house on the shores of idyllic Elizabeth Bay. This episode was a classic example of how to botch what was always going to be a difficult job.

The first mistake was to send the technician to put out the treated wheat mid-morning rather than at dawn when the birds’ stomachs would be empty and most receptive to the narcotic. That being done, he was contacted by the office and told to go and place some bait at another job, leaving the first job unattended – second mistake. When he returned a few hours later, there was pandemonium! TV film crews, journalists, Japanese tourists and local residents were present. The tourists and residents were wading out into the bay picking up sleeping birds and bringing them to shore.

Of course, the technician was recognised as a ‘pestie’ and confronted by accusing media and residents. He told me later that he hadn’t punched a cameraman but merely ‘jostled’ him – third mistake. When the company was contacted for comment, the spokesman explained that the birds were only sleeping soundly and were going to be taken elsewhere before being allowed to recover. Once again, I’m not sure how many people believed him. Funnily enough, the job was cancelled.

What a goose!

There is a park close to Botany Bay and it has numerous football fields and picnic areas. Many years ago, geese were attacking picnic goers in an effort to grab their lunches. Needless to say, complaints were made to the local council and they decided to act. A team of us went to investigate and come up with a solution. The outcome was that we decided to pre-bait one of the soccer fields with a concentration of bread in the mouth of the goal. After a week of this, the geese were feeding voraciously. The next step of the plan was to install the net at the back of the goal posts early in the morning of the job, place down the bread, wait until the geese were feeding inside the netted area and then run another net around the front of the posts thus trapping the birds inside, ready to be taken away.

On the day in question, we showed up only to find that, in a masterstroke of co-ordination, workmen had tilled the field and covered it in foul smelling fertiliser. Plus, nobody had shown up with the nets. What can you expect from a council? So, we proceeded to hand feed the geese without any trouble until they started to slow down. However, some took fright and flew high into the air.

“Geese can fly,” marvelled the branch manager, “I didn’t know that geese could fly.”

“How do you think they got here?” asked a technician, “Hitch hiked?”

Broken Hill brouhaha

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Broken Hill. Apart from the perennial heat and flies, sometimes it’s the birds that cause the trouble. Many years ago, corellas and galahs were causing blackouts by chewing electrical cables. Naturally the residents weren’t too happy about this so the company franchise agent offered his services. He planned to bait the birds with a substance that makes birds emit distress calls and do crazy ‘loop the loops’.

The birds which eat the small percentage of treated wheat mixed with plain wheat usually die, but in the process, their behaviour drives other birds away. The wheat was placed in feeding stations that had been established for weeks and was eagerly consumed. There were two unforeseen developments however. Some of the birds crashed into the electrical cables and caused blackouts. Later in the day, large numbers of feral pigs were found staggering through the streets of Broken Hill, having suffered the effects of consuming too many doped birds.

White Bay wipe out

I would like to finish by telling you about the time we trapped hundreds of seagulls at White Bay in Glebe, Sydney. They were fouling new cars that had been brought from Japan and stored nearby. The seagulls were living in a fenced off area which was overgrown with knee-high shrubs and weeds, thus protecting them from predators. We initially placed ‘nest traps’ over the nests, which contained eggs and baby birds. When the mother bird forced her way back into the nest, she was seized. Of course, we had a licence to do this, we weren’t that stupid! When I was on holidays, a team returned to remove the foliage with brush cutters. Did I mention that some of the baby birds had escaped and were sheltering in the bushes? As I said, I wasn’t there so I can’t tell you what happened next.

I hope that you enjoyed these recollections, every word the gospel truth as far as I can remember. More importantly, I hope that you have learned an important lesson – don’t break or even bend the rules of bird control. You’re going to look like a goose if you do!

Peter Lamond

Peter Lamond has over 37 years experience in the pest management industry and a wealth of knowledge on bird management and control, and pest management in general.