Johannesburg - Whenever people see Ashton Musgrave and his Harris hawk, they take a picture of them together and ask if they can stroke the bird.
For Musgrave and his bird are turning heads whenever they go to work and that, for them, means going to office blocks, businesses, eco-estates and individual homes.
Musgrave uses the hawk to help his customers eradicate pigeons that are bothering them.
He launched his special service in September, and it has taken flight.
He has named his hawk – which was imported from the US – Caster after Olympic athlete Caster Semenya, because the three-year-old bird is “exceptionally fast”.
She is one of five hawks that he uses – another of which is named after swimming Olympic gold medallist Chad le Clos.
“Pigeon management does not happen overnight. It has to be done progressively,” said Musgrave.
“(Pigeons) are clever and adapt quickly. If you block up one entrance, they find another.”
There are several methods of removing pigeons, such as netting and repellent spray, and the hawk is called in as a last resort.
Caster’s job is to pursue the pigeons until they leave.
“Once pigeons know there is a predator in the area, they go to roost in a safer habitat,” Musgrave said.
One Joburg company called in Musgrave and Caster when the pigeon problem got so out of hand that baby birds in the roof were dropping into the machinery.
About 600kg of dried pigeon droppings were also removed.
Caster is free-flying and has a transmitter on her in case she does not return to Musgrave.
This has only happened once, when she was carried away by a gust of wind.
Musgrave and his hawk operate at night as it is quieter.
They are also called in to move geese from golf estates.
“Geese cause thousands of rand damage to golf courses,” Musgrave explains.
“Caster actively pursues them and then I take the geese and release them on a farm.”
Musgrave also gets calls from homeowners for help in getting rid of bats.
“We are environmentally conscious,” he says.
“I never touch the bats as they are protected. I remove the droppings and block up the holes to stop them gaining access, then put the bats in bat boxes.”
Musgrave is training other hawks and is planning to open his Envirosolve business in Cape Town soon.
l To get in touch with Ashton Musgrave, call him at 082 899 4542,e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.envirosolve.co.za. - Saturday Star