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11 October 2013

Why do I think that? because yesterday I had a helicoper hovering more-or-less overhead, and the farming sections of the newspapers are all warning about setting your tractor on fire. And those items aren’t as odd as they sound in combination. The helicoper is on rook patrol. The birds form huge rookeries and are a complete pain in the neck as well as a foreign – and unwanted (what idiot imported them? ) – species. So the local council in rural areas sends out people in a helicopter, and while the helicopter hovers over the rookery, someone goes down on a winch and encourages the rooks to depart – and no, I’m not getting into specifics, the rooks are a nuisance but I’m an animal lover and I don’t want to think about just how the rooks are ‘encouraged.’ I don’t have a rookery on my property – or I’d really be torn on the subject – but the chap over the road has one on his place and this happens every few years.

And then there’s the tractors on fire. That’s also birds, starlings usually. A motivated, hard-working and energetic pair of starlings can build a nest in 18 minutes. And – for reasons known only to idiot starlings, they like to do that in tractor engines as being the ideal sheltered spot. So – farmer spends an exhausting morning ploughing or whatever, goes off to lunch, returns, fires up tractor and …wow, pretty flames shooting out from the engine. Because tractor engines get hot fast, starlings use very dry materials, and bingo – Combustion! And while a farm’s barn cat/s do a pretty good job, they do it mostly in the barn/s, not in tractor engines and a tractor in use isn’t usually put in the barn until the job is finished. Why is why a tractor more often goes up in flames right after lunch. Because you may think to check after it’s been tucked away for a whole night, but it’s something that often doesn’t occur to the driver when the darn tractor has just been sitting in the yard for 30-90 minutes.

I have my own problems with the chimney flue for my freestanding enclosed fire. That isn’t rooks, it’s mostly starlings, and fortunately for us all I’m very aware of the speed with which starlings can build and the dangers of them doing so in the flue. My damaged leg doesn’t like the cold or damp, so it’s not uncommon for me to have a fire going every few days to Christmas to make sure the place stays dry. That’s normally enough for the starlings to get the message. But some years – this one is showing as a possibility – the weather is warm and dry early and I may stop lighting the fire more than once a week just for a few hours. And if so, then the starlings decide that the flue would make a good nesting spot and start to build. However and fortunately a) they do this in daylight only, and b) my bedroom where I often work is close enough for me to hear the fluttering, chattering discussion, and scrabbling in the flue and I can race outside and yell, toss the odd small stone, and get the message across that the flue is not a good nesting spot. It doesn’t make me popular, but it’s better than fried starling/eggs/nestlings when next I really need to light the fire. Over the years the starlings have mostly passed on this message so it’s rare for me to have the problem unless a new pair are desperate for a home and gamble. In which case I’m outside again throwing things and describing their ancestry, intelligence, and probable destination…the latter being all too likely right here if the weather chills down and I light the fire without realizing I have tenants. So, as I say, it’s moving into summer, we’ve already had the rook helicopter, and any day now I expect to see a small plume of smoke rising as someone forgets to check a tractor engine….

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