Now that normal service can be resumed (and about bloody time), it’s worth catching up on a couple of things. Firstly, larsen mate traps.
I got a larsen mate last year when gamekeeping supply companies were churning them out as if there was no tomorrow, cashing in on an easy buck before the inevitable ban came in on the new General Licence for 2012. Around Christmas, I had a phone call from a representative at the SGA asking whether or not I had used it, and I had to say that I hadn’t. I’m in an odd semi-public position which means that (like everyone else, but even more so) I follow every letter of the law with great precision – this isn’t a bind, not only because I like doing things properly but also because it means that I have to keep an eye on how the law changes, so to be honest, I was too pernikity to use a trap which didn’t seem to have received official endorsement.
When larsen mates didn’t fall off the General Licence in Scotland, it seemed that while the Scottish Government had not exactly endorsed the traps, they hadn’t taken the easy steps necessary to make them illegal, even though they had clearly considered doing so. I will say with some confidence now that I’m using my larsen mate, and it’s hard to see what all the controversy was about. Setting one up next to a feed hopper in March, I caught dozens of rooks and jackdaws in quick succession, and it was actually a bit of a job to keep the damn thing empty. The wide 2″x2″ mesh meant that chaffinches could get out if they sprung it, but I soon learnt to set it bluntly enough so that only a bigger bird would trigger the perches.
When I started using larsens for corbies, I set the larsen mate either on top of the cage or off to one side. This pretty well guaranteed success, if not in 24 hours, then certainly in 36. There then emerged a bit of a problem.
Last year, I caught several pairs together at the same time in traditional larsen traps, but assuming that they weren’t both caught at precisely the same moment, the capture of one must have been of little consequence to the other, otherwise it would have buggered off. I suppose that, to a crow’s eye, a larsen trap is a just a maze of mesh panels, so if one moves from vertical to horizontal, the change is not worth fretting about. By comparison, a larsen mate changes shape altogether when it fires – it clangs shut and then might rock back and forth with a captured bird inside it. It seems to me that while larsen mates are great for catching the first (usually cock) crow, they struggle to catch a second, even if the first is put in the call compartment. In fact, I’m starting to think that larsen mates might be making the surviving birds trap shy. I’ve caught crows in my larsen mate when it was set on a traditional larsen trap, but even after I took the larsen mate away, I didn’t catch anything else. I wonder what difference it would make to use two larsen mates at a trap – I’ll give it a try and see…
In the meantime, I’ve stopped using the larsen mate with larsens and have started using it for jackdaws along with a call bird in a large dog crate. I can’t risk making corbies trap shy, and jackdaws seem much more forgiving when it comes to an IQ test. The larsen mate is cable tied to the roof of the trap so that it doesn’t fall off when it fires, and I’m checking it twice a day. To be quite honest, there’s no reason why these traps are inhumane. A car is a dangerous piece of kit, but provided you use it sensibly, it’s as harmless as a mouse. Banning larsen mate traps because some people have used them inappropriately makes no sense whatsoever, and it’s just part of the “move at the pace of the slowest” philosophy which was made famous by the North Atlantic convoys but which now applies to legislation in the name of the “slowest witted”. If one person acts foolishly, we’re all punished. My call birds all have plenty of space, a perch, shelter, food and water, and the captured birds are dealt with quickly and without any hastle. I’ve never caught anything that I didn’t mean to catch, and now that I’ve accounted for two dozen rooks and the same number of jackdaws, I can consider larsen mates a benign and efficient means of doing business in the springtime.