While our volunteers aren't able to get out onto reserve, we've asked them to recount some of their previous adventures. Long-term Western Australian volunteer Bob Ruscoe recounts an incident whilst caretaking on Charles Darwin Reserve.
Charles Darwin Reserve has a laundry area in the open verandah section of the toilet block near the visitors’ quarters.
One day I walked into the quarters and Sandra asked, “Where is the laundry soap?”
I said I had no idea. She said, “Well there's no-one else here, so you must have used it.”
I went to the laundry and checked. Sure enough, no soap. I dismissed the incident as a misunderstanding and replaced the soap.
Next day I checked and the replacement soap was gone! I asked Sandra, “Did you take the new cake of soap?”
“No way!” she said.
Given that there was no-one else within many kilometres I was quite puzzled and replaced the soap with a small piece. It too disappeared. “This is ridiculous,” I thought and set about trying to trap whatever it was that was taking it.
After several attempts (and pieces of soap all going missing) I set a really good trap, or so I thought. I set up a plastic milk crate, tipped upside down on one edge and propped up with a stick. I then tied a piece of string to the middle of the stick, ran it up the outside of the milk crate, over the top and down through a hole in the middle to dangle in the upturned crate. I then tied a piece of soap to the string. There was no way you could pull that soap out without pulling the stick away. The crate would drop and presto the thief would be caught.
Then I waited. Next morning, I saw a crow flying low across the paddock, like a stealth bomber, and straight towards the laundry. He flew so low he had to pop up a bit to clear each fence he crossed.
I realised he could be the thief and stepped quickly into the visitors’ quarters to get my camera. I gently peered through a tiny gap I made in the curtains of our room and was amazed to see he had disappeared. Smart bird. The soap was still there so I left it, smug in the knowledge that I was going to solve the mystery by catching the thief.
Later that day I checked the trap and it was sprung! The string, stick and soap all gone! No sign of the culprit. I could not believe it. Later that day I found the string and stick nearby, separate and with no knots, but no soap.
I know it was the crow but how did he do it? Apparently crows collect coloured objects for their nest and this one fancied white as a colour.
No-one has been able to explain to me how he did it. One suggestion was that it was two crows working together and while one held the side of the crate up, the other undid the knots and stole the soap. Seriously, how did he do it? It has never been solved nor satisfactory explanation offered.