I watched them agiley running through the climbers and fruit trees in my backyard and was pretty excited, believing some rare marsuipial had moved in to my wildlife friendly habitat.
They were most active from sunset to sunrise.
A biologist friend came over to observe and help identify my new inhabitants.
I was hoping they were antichinus, a small rare Australian marsupial and quite excited at that prospect. However I was disappointed. My garden, along with that of my neighbours, had been invaded by rattus rattus, alias, the common roof rat.
I rang Moreland Council to report our invasion by rattus rattus and the officer in charge of pests, recommended I resort to a toxic poison, that would be passed along the foodchain, to predatory birds and animals.
My cat would need to be kept indoors for two weeks from the time I used it.
I was not prepared to compromise the lives of other creatures, so invested in some rat traps which looted me a single rat, over some weeks.
One evening I stepped outside at dusk, only to be greeted by what I later identified as a masked owl, swooping over and grabbing a rat in its talons. Over the next week, it returned, quite regularly and I noticed it was patrolling our suburb on its nocturnal rounds.
My next nocturnal visitor was a pair of tawny frogmouths, who too were coming in to feast on the proliferation of rattus rattus in our neighbourhood.
How glad I was I decided not to heed the advice of that officer from Moreland Council. By simply letting nature take its course, the beneficial predators arrived to deal with the unwanted pests.
These birds were the equivalent of the Pied Piper, removing those rats from our urban backyards.
I was pretty proud of my rare nocturnal visitors and the efforts I'd made to create and maintain a wildlife friendly garden.
Masked owls and tawny frogmouths are alive and well in our suburbs, and are the very best means of dealing with rattus rattus.
I felt privileged to have them coming regularly into my garden.
All this, was less than ten kilometres from the Melbourne CBD!
Choices we make for our own backyards have implications way beyond them. To use products toxic to beneficial predators like owls and tawny frogmouths, goshawks and more, is to threaten these glorious birds for future generations. Nature truly has wonderful ways of maintaining a healthy balance, it is we who resort to toxins because we forget, very able predators already exist to keep destructive, disease carrying pests in check!