Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sparrow trapping

I have been catching sparrows.

The trap

To such lawyers of my acquaintance desirous of knowing why I wish to catch sparrows, they swarm of a morning and eat all the wheat flung about the lawn for the chickens. - The sparrows, not the lawyers. -  Each morning the hens, if not fed, make a raucous din outside the bedroom window. Ergo half-a-marmalade-pot of wheat is thrown on the lawn before bedtime. We tried dog food which they prefer, but the hedgehog came and ate it overnight and the hens were raucous again in the morning. You are supposed to slay hedgehogs here cos they eat eggs and as New Zealand once had no mammals but bats, many birds evolved to become ground-nesters, and subject to hedgehog egg predation, they are fast becoming extinct. But we can't bring ourselves to kill a hedgehog and anyway there are no kiwis in the garden.

The trigger mechanism. The plywood stick, w. fishing line, is flicked sideways to release

To catch sparrows all that is needed is a wire mesh cage, a support structure to hold it off the ground, a length of fishing line going through the Xpelair hole in the kitchen window, and a trigger mechanism, it being a deadfall trap operated by hand rather than by automatic trigger. Fifteen sparrows were caught with it this morning in lots of 5, 3, 1, 2, 2 1 and 2. So that's sixteen because I can't count. The idea is to go out among the trapped and panicking sparrows and when they have been thoroughly alarmed and disquieted, to release them all. We tried this last summer, ringing each sparrow caught, and found that we never caught a ringed sparrow, so that means once caught they don't come back.

A bit of kitchen, w. the Ahnfeldt-Mollerups' barbecue in the background, bless 'em for bequeathing it to us.

I could shoot them with an air rifle - the sparrows again, not the lawyers - but as it's the adult sparrow who comes accompanied by a flock of fledglings, I entertain the hope that capture-and-release will assist their discrimination twixt food put out for hens (all of it) and food put out for sparrows (none).

The same bit of kitchen, w. Xpelair hole

Also, it adds excitement to breakfast. Coffee is admittedly a stimulant, but it don't give much of an adrenalin buzz. Even my wife wants to watch.

The retaining fishing-line, w. three slightly perplexed oversized sparrows/hens/lawyers-of-my-acquaintance. (You choose.)


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hand router

 A welded-together router, this afternoon

Among the tribulations of Christmas is the well-known phenomenon of extreme depression on reading that every child of every friend you ever had has either won the Nobel Prize for Ballet or become the leader of the National Youth Orchestra, whereas your own children are just Or'nery and at the best of times you can only aspire to their one day being adequate.

Fortunately your childless friend-or-relation taking pity on your forgetfulness in omitting to send her an invitation to come for the festivities, invites herself and with detached objectivity makes up for your evident want of parenting skills by pointing out all your family's deficiencies. I had not noticed myself that boisterous singing at the Ngatimoti Carol Festival was Bad Behaviour; I had thought it was a logical tactic in the annual Motueka Brass Band vs. the Congregation competition. A series of other helpful observations on how the young adults (for that is now what they are) can improve themselves were gratefully received and I am quite sure will be acted on. Twelve months hence we will find that they have each gone on to marry the Prince of Wales/chair the United Nations/become vice-chancellor of Auckland University respectively. When this happens I shall write a Christmas letter to this effect: depend on it.

In the meantime the only accomplishment to report is the cutting of a deep narrow slot in a piece of pear-wood. I shan't say why: it can be a mystery, and add interest to the proceedings. Suffice to say that I needed a blind-ended recess half-an-inch deep, square to the surface, and 1.5mm wide. No tool exists to create such a slot so I had to make one myself, and because I am Dead Clever and Dead Vain I shall very generously say how I did it and you may admire me excessively even though none of my children are Lydia Ko Hayley Westenra or Lorde.

What I made is a small hand router. The cutter is a piece of industrial hacksaw blade, ground to shape and sharpened with a diamond file. I thought I would hold it vertical by welding three pieces of angle-iron together, each clamped to the same flat surface during the welding to give a uniform sole. Grub screws were to hold the blade in place.

This did not work. The blade caught in the bottom of the slot, dug in, and tipped forwards.

I took a slip of steel and welded it to the front of the slot, so that pressure by the grub screws need only hold the blade at the correct depth.

This did work, but adjusting the depth of cut with a brisk tap of a hammer proved undependable.

So I welded a bit of angle-iron as a cap, over the top of the blade, with a 6mm screw to push the blade downwards.

I found that rotation of the screw merely pushed the top of the blade sideways. Moreover the upward pressure tended to bend the angle-iron cap backwards.

So I welded a front to the cap to stop the backwards-bending, and a slip of steel at the right-hand side of the blade to stop the sideways bending.

And I am happy to report that this now works perfectly. Ugly, true. But it only cost me a morning to make, so now I can devote the time saved to developing better parenting skills.

Labels: , ,