Category Archives: Birds

Mad inventor John Ward, creator of comedy awards + friend of hungry birds

John Ward’s sonic attack bottle

On my way back down from Scotland to London, I stopped off in Lincolnshire to see mad inventor John Ward, who designed and made the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards for me. We went into his back garden and there were two long bamboo canes sticking out of the grass, with large, upside-down plastic bottles on them.

“What on earth are the bottles for?” I asked.

“Moles,” he said starkly. “We had three moles digging up our lawn earlier this week. If you put a stick or a cane with an empty plastic pop bottle in the grass where the mole’s dug, then the wind rattles the bottle. Moles are blind, but their hearing is phenomenally sensitive, so it buggers up their ears. We had three moles earlier this week. I put those two bottles up the other night and we haven’t seen them again.

“You can buy expensive, sophisticated sonic devices to deter moles, but an empty plastic Coca Cola bottle stuck upside down on a garden cane is cheaper and just the same.”

We were really in John’s back garden, though, to see his new bird table, a large metal structure with holes in it.

“What’s it made from?” I asked.

John Ward’s bird table has radar and a Dalek sink plunger

“It’s the interior of a central heating oil tank,” John told me. “We couldn’t put oil in it any more because it had cracks and splits. It was going to be dumped, but I was in my re-cycling mode, so I looked at it and thought it would make a bird table.

“We’ve had schoolkids come along and sketch it for their art class because – well – it’s something different, I suppose. Drawing farmhouses, rivers and trees must pale after a while. And we had a couple come through on a tandem: I say, the man said, do you mind if we come through and take a photograph of your bird table? Then the Daily Mail came along to take a picture of it and then there was Rory, the man from the Discovery Channel.

“The first version I built was smaller scale and when the wind hit it, over it went. So this one has large holes in and instead of acting as a wind break it becomes, in effect, a sieve. The wind zaps through the holes and stabilises it.”

John used to call himself a “junkist” – because he makes things from junk.

“When people talk about re-cycling,” he explains, “they usually think of something ornamental – something you re-paint and stick in an art exhibition. I like to think of more practical things.”

Bird table with cat-scaring holes and interior restaurant area

“Do the birds like your bird table?” I asked.

“Well,” he replied, “we’ve had 18 birds in it pecking away at same time and, when that happened, there were about 7 or 8 others on top waiting to get inside.”

“And your cat?” I asked. “What does your cat think of the bird table?”

“Can’t get up to it,” he said. “It has smooth legs.”

“The cat?”

“The bird table. Nothing to grip on to. Our cat leaps up in the air but can’t get in. And, normally, in a rural area like this, rats would go up and in and help themselves to the food too. But, with this thing, underneath, it’s perfectly smooth and flat, so they have nothing to grip on to.”

“Why doesn’t the cat just leap in the air and jump onto the platform?” I asked.

“The holes put it off,” John told me. “The cat jumps up, its paw stretches out, but the birds fly off or just sit and look, laughing at the cat. It’s like Sylvester and Tweety. And the cat’s getting a bit old plus it’s heavier than what it was. It jumps up and plops down with a frustrated, slightly angry look on its face. You’ve not seen my World War Two landing strip, have you?”

John Ward’s World War Two bird landing strip (with bath)

“Not that I remember,” I said, “and I would probably have remembered if I had.”

“I’ll get the key and show you,” he said. “It’s in the shed.”

“I like cats,” I said.

“The cat’s not in the shed,” John said.

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Filed under Birds, Creativity, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Inventions, Lateral thinking

How not to repel pigeons with a can of illegal CS gas and some chilli powder

Ultimate anti-pigeon spray: Lady CS gas

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about a friend in South East London with pigeon problems on her balcony. There must be a lot of it about. I have another friend in North London with a similar problem. She told me yesterday she intends to take direct action.

In my previous blog, I also mentioned someone who had caught a rat with sticky paper and had ended the rodent’s life with a sharp knife attached to the end of a broom handle. Life can be violent in South East London.

“I think I saw an article in the Evening Standard,” my North London friend told me yesterday afternoon. “it mentioned a paste that would get on pigeons’ feet. It sounded like a new thing they’d just discovered that was going to be pretty well 100% effective. I imagined it to be something like a glue and it was in chillies.”

“Well,” I said, “for a long time, they’ve put stuff on the stone window sills in London buildings that burns pigeons’ toes off.”

“I know! I know!” my friend said. “I used to think they were just pigeons which had gone too near to a car.”

“After a certain age, pigeons in Central London have no toes,” I said. “They just have little stumpy legs like Long John Silver.”

“I know. I know,” my friend said. “Don’t remind me.”

“… but without parrots on their shoulders,” I added.

She did not laugh. In my experience, people seldom do when I say things.

“When looking for the wood lice thing,” my friend continued, “I did notice and thought of getting a thing that would keep cats and foxes and…”

“Catnip?” I asked.

“… and pigeons away,” she continued. “But I think it might also have repelled all birds, so that’s why I didn’t get it.”

“Tabasco?” I suggested.

“It was a peppery thing,” she said, “that was actually in chilli. So I was thinking I could use chilli powder. Surely. Maybe. I’ve sprinkled it on the floor of my balcony. I dunno where to get the paste stuff from. I wish I could find the article. Whether I should mix it into a paste or some sticky substance…”

“You’ve sprinkled chilli powder on the floor of your balcony?” I asked.

“I’ve sprinkled it on sticky paper,” she replied, “because I haven’t actually made a paste. I haven’t figured how I’m supposed to… I was going to think of something… Not honey, because that would be crazy. That would attract ants or something would go very wrong. But something sticky.”

“It would attract ants?”

“Honey. Wouldn’t it? But I’m going to try CS gas, too.”

“CS gas?” I asked.

“I have a can of mace which I usually carry in my handbag.”

“Isn’t that illegal?” I asked.

“Yes,” she agreed. “But this is London in 2012. You were telling me yesterday that story about your tour guide in North Korea who got hit on the back of the head with a baseball bat in Bristol…. I don’t know… Do you think spraying CS gas would deter pigeons?”

“It would probably surprise them,” I agreed.

“The mace spray, if it’s working, would repel them immediately,” my friend said. “But the can may not be working any more. It’s quite old. Does CS gas deteriorate over time?”

“Not my area of expertise,” I replied. “I can tell you about comedians and Charlie Chuck’s ducks.”

“They wouldn’t be able to hang out in the area,” my friend continued. “It stings your eyes and it stings your feet.”

“It stings your feet?” I asked. “I haven’t seen street demonstrators leaping in the air when the police use CS gas.”

“Pigeons have bare feet,” my friend explained. “It’s quite a widely-known fact. Pigeons don’t wear shoes. Not even flip-flops. No animals like CS gas. It’s not just humans.”

“Giraffes are above such things,” I suggested.

“It depends on the wind,” my friend said.

“I had an email from Mr Methane today,” I said. “He said he’s recorded a…”

“Look,” my friend said. “There is a pigeon problem on my balcony and, if I can make them not like where they’re landing or think Fucking hell! My toes sting!, then I… Of course, a lot of the chilli blows away. I poured the powder on the floor of my balcony and some of it blew away. That’s why I stuck it on sticky tape, but the sticky tape isn’t exactly sticking for some reason.”

“Will the pigeons not stand on the sticky tape and fly away with the sticky tape on their afore-mentioned bare feet?” I asked.

“Well,” my friend said, “that might make them think twice about staying as well. That’s a terrible vision: coming back and finding a load of pigeons stuck to the floor and to each other, half-dead.”

“This is like the rat story, isn’t it?” I suggested. “Where the rat has to be killed by a broom handle with a sharp knife on the end.”

“Yes. I wish I could get the same sticky stuff that the rats had. That would do it, wouldn’t it? And it would stick.”

“You think the anti-rat fly-paper would work?” I asked.

“I had a newly cleaned and painted balcony,” my friend said. “Nice and bright and spotless. The pigeons shit on it. I don’t want to have to clean the balcony if people pop by.”

“But you would have to clear the sticky tape and chilli powder anyway,” I pointed out. “And the people might go barefoot and go Ooh Oooh Ooh with the CS gas.”

“You mustn’t touch things like bird shit, pigeon shit,” my friend said, “because they have all those illnesses that are very bad for you and kill you.”

“Illnesses?” I asked.

“Oh I don’t know,” she said. “E-coli or something. Something really bad, anyway. People could be dropping dead. You could be blinded or something. There are things that can blind you, like dog shit can blind you.”

“Well it can,” I agreed, “thrown with the right momentum.”

“No, no,” she said, “the bugs that are in things like shit. The bacteria can get into your body and cause all sorts of ailments.”

“Dog shit can send you barking mad?”

My friend gave a big sigh.

“Look, I am trying to sort out this pigeon thing,” she said, “and I would like to get this sticky paper for the rats. I don’t know where to get it from. But I swear something came to my mind. Gela… something. Gelatinous?”

“Gelegnite?” I suggested.

“Gelatinous.”

“Gelegnite would do it, too.”

“Only if you had the bloody pigeon to hand at the time. I mean gelatinous stuff you could mix in with the chilli stuff and it would stay there as a blob. Then I have to take into consideration things like the wind which is going to blow some of the chilli powder away – or rain, which is going to wash it away. But I could mix it into a little watery paste. I just need to have it so it will stick there in a little mound of something that irritates them and they think Oh! this isn’t very nice. I’m off!

“What about putting a little pile of dog shit on the floor of the balcony?” I suggested. “That might blind them.”

“Yes, but it would also blind me, wouldn’t it,” my friend replied. “Chilli is not going to blind me.”

“Dog shit won’t blind you either,” I said, “unless you roll in the dog shit. Just put it down so it…”

“Birds would be highly sensitive to chilli,” my friend interrupted. “As would you, if it was rubbed on the sensitive parts of your body.”

“People pay good money for that in Soho,” I said.

“The sticky tape isn’t sticking,” my friend continued. “The chill isn’t sticking either.”

“The next time you come home,” I said, “you’re going to find six pigeons stuck together on sticky paper, unable to fly.”

“It would be awful, wouldn’t it?” my friend said, “But the sticky tape isn’t sticking.”

“Mmmm…” I mused.

“Of course,” my friend said, “when they get stuck or trapped or in one place, they just shit and…”

“It would be counter-productive,” I said.

“Exactly,” my friend said.

“It is a problem,” I agreed.

“Yes it is,” my friend agreed.

We sat down and ate spaghetti.

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Filed under Birds, Humor, Humour