Tuesday, December 5, 2000

The "Bucket" Experiment

An interesting experiment was set up by Jerry in the bush in the valley behind his house. After some experiments placing food in their backyard out for their visitors (but never being sure if possums or a yowie took it), an ingenious plan was devised.
Overhanging a small cliff escarpment above the floor of the valley, Jerry hung a black plastic 7" pot (the "bucket") from a branch of one of the local bloodwood trees. The location was specifically chosen because it is the most obvious entry point from the lower valley to the bush above the cliffline, where he believes it accesses the ridge and the houses. The pot was hung with fishing line way out over open air, so nobody could reach it from the ground, and so possums couldn't climb out to get it.

A voice-activated tape recorder was then wrapped in a plastic bag and hidden beneath some leaves in a tree stump, close to the base of the tree. The pot was filled with food (bread rolls). The whole scenario was left for the night. This was tried for many nights.
The recording heard one morning was intriguing. Jerry can clearly be heard making his way back home, calling his cat as he went. Following this, the recorder activated each time one of the regularly scheduled freight trains passed through nearby town, giving us insight into how long the breaks were between recording, and to give a timing for what was to come next.
The first thing heard is a large rustle (steps?) as something approaches the tape recorder. A lot of rustling is heard as whatever it is locates the tape recorder and tears the plastic bag open. The cassette recorder is audibly banged a number of times against something (tree stump?). A few breaks are heard in the recording. Then, a loud plastic "thump" is heard, as the plastic pot is struck (with what?) and can be heard hitting the ground 10 metres below. The remainder of the recording is further trains and the calling if the birds at dawn.
In the morning, the pot was found empty, lying at the bottom of the cliff. The tape recorder was removed from its hiding place and taken out of the plastic bag it was wrapped in. The door of the tape recorder is partly broken.
We can only speculate on the source of the noise approaching the recorder and tearing it out of the bag to strike it against the tree stump. In the same way, we can only guess how the pot was struck so hard as to break the fishing line and send it to the bottom of the cliff. Perhaps it has something to do with the large figure that Jerry and Sue have seen outside their bedroom window.
It is of course possible, that somebody was down in the bush at 1am, found the cassette recorder in the tree stump and removed it (but didn't take it with them), then struck the pot with a large tree limb, retrieving and eating the food within. This seems much more likely than possums. Possums can be ruled out almost surely by listening to the recording, particularly the thumping of the recorder, which was obviously quite strong. If there is interest/feedback from readers, we may copy the recording so it can be heard from this site.
Jerry maintains that the creature that frequents their home is very aware of minute changes in the environment around their house, and would notice such things as a bucket hanging in a tree. It is also possible that the sound of the tape recorder activating or the small red diode that lights up as it records, may have drawn attention to it.

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