Substitute Snake Catcher

Before I realized how much nicer it is to see birds flying free in their natural environment I asked Papa to build me an aviary so I could keep some birds. He built a long aviary in two parts and over the years we kept Princess, Bourke and Turquoise Parrots in one half, Canaries, Diamond Doves, Quails, Zebra and Double Bar Finches in the other half. Like people who have too much food at their disposal the birds were very wasteful and scattered seeds in all directions as they picked out their favourites. Despite our best efforts mice found their way into the aviaries and then one day a snake found its way through the small mesh and into the aviary.

I first saw the snake when it was making its way through the wire mesh, lifting its head high and moving it from side to side as it decided on the best route to take. There were Canary eggs in a hanging terracotta bowl and that’s where it went. I saw it disappear completely into the bowl and it didn’t reappear. I didn’t want the snake to settle in to a smorgasbord of birds and eggs so I phoned a snake catcher. They said it would take the catcher over an hour to get to my house, cost $100 and the cost was the same whether the snake could be found or not. It sounded like a waste of money to me.

It’s illegal to kill snakes and the catcher would have just released the snake in a “safe place”. I decided I could do it myself. I went into the aviary and checked to see that the snake was still there then despite his protests I persuaded Papa to bring me an old chook food bag. I rolled down the top of the bag then put it under the terracotta pot, I moved the bag up until the pot was resting on the bottom of the bag then I unhooked the hanging pot, rolled up the bag and scrunched up the top. I tied the top, put the bag in my car and drove to the bushy Recreation Park which is just a few minutes from home then I took the bag out and went to find a nice scrubby place to let the snake go.

There was no problem carrying the bag or opening it, I used a stick to open it wide and eventually the snake decided to investigate its new surroundings. Maybe I smelt good, maybe the bush smelt bad, whatever the reason the snake decided that it would come to me and it took a bit of persuading to get it to go off into the scrub but eventually it did. I saved myself $100 and proved to myself I could deal with a snake just like any other pest I didn’t want about the place.

You didn’t know that about Nana, did you?

The unwelcome visitor.
The unwelcome visitor.

Annie Oakley I Am Not!

When I was growing up there was always a gun in the house, it had absolutely nothing to do with a perceived need for personal protection. Dad grew up in the country where guns were just a part of life, he had a .22 and would sometimes go out spotlighting for rabbits. He was always very careful with the gun because his uncle was killed in a spotlighting accident and we were all told about it so that we understood the dangers.

I remember going spotlighting once with Dad and the boys, I spotted a rabbit which Dad couldn’t see so I held the gun and pointed it at the rabbit. Dad fired the gun and as the rabbit ran off Dad said, “Oh that’s where it was”. Dad cleaned the rabbits that we shot and they were taken home to be eaten.

We also had an airgun at home which my brothers normally used to shoot at birds raiding the fruit trees. One day I was playing with it shooting at something in the Lemon Tree, a pellet hit a branch and ricocheted back to hit me right between my eyebrows. The dent it made lasted for days, I was unbelievably lucky that it missed an eye.

Another day I was out in the back yard with the airgun when a Sparrow landed on the corrugated iron fence ready for a foray into the fig Tree. I lifted the gun, fired and was astonished to see the bird disappear. I went up to the fence and peered over. The bird was flapping frantically on the ground and I felt sick. The realization hit that it was so very easy to kill something but impossible to bring it alive again. I put the gun back inside and haven’t touched one since.

You didn’t know that about Nana did you?

Annie Oakley