However, even by the beam of my dying headlamp, I could see the glint of plastic. A lot of plastic. In fact, the heap of myna nest material seemed to glitter in the light. I knew I had solved the mystery – here was all the evidence. Firstly, I separated all the paper and plastic. I also separated out foil things, that had a more metallic glint. Then I carefully examined each piece for forensic clues as to its age and origins. This was actually quite fun. A lot of the clear plastic (and the majority of the plastic was clear), was unidentifiable (x85 pieces). Perhaps sandwich bags or shredded wrapping material. However, there was a lot of cigarette packet wrappers (x22), with their diagnostic dimensions and boxy shape. More direct evidence was an actual cigarette butt (Lucky Strike, in case you were wondering), as well as the shiny foil part inside the box, and then the box itself (in this case, Peter Stuyvesant). The inclusion of cigarette butts might be more significant than just something the birds happened to pick up. New studies suggest that the chemicals in tobacco leaves can repel parasites. Read more in this punny-titled piece: City birds use cigarette butts to smoke out parasites.
The majority of the other identifiable plastics were food-associated. Possibly one of my neighbours had, sometime in the last few years, had a particular craving for Beacon Smoothies sweets which were present as follows: 18x blue flavour; 5 green; 2 purple; and 1 pink. There were also many other similar sucking sweets, such as Endearmints, Halls (4 black, 1 blue), Sparkles, Freegells, Eclairs, and 14 other little wrappers. There was a red Chappie paper, with “Did you know” trivia on the back concerning Mona Lisa’s eyebrows. There was one Ice Lolly wrapper, a section of a Nosh chocolate bar wrapper and a random purple chocolate bar wrapper with ingredientes en Espanol. It wasn’t all sweet, and savoury was represented by a ketchup packet possibly from McDonald’s, a Simba potato chips wrapper, plastic cover of buns from Pick & Pay, some scraps from Nando’s and for seasoning a Salt packet. Conveniently, there was also a toothpick wrapper from Ocean Basket. Incidentally, all of these shops (Pick & Pay, Ocean Basket etc.) are situated about 800 m from me. I doubt whether the birds flew that far to collect the material, as they would have had to pass through the territories of several other myna pairs in the process. Also, there isn’t a Nando’s for several kilometres, which suggests that the junk was found from some secondary source. Probably dustbins left out for the garbage collectors or the like.
ABOVE: Left to right, top to bottom. Beacon Smoothies were much in prominence, particularly the blue flavour. Clover dairy product wrapper. Gold tear strip and box of Stuyvie blues. Small Ziplock bag (still seals, sweet!). Fresh Pick & Pay wrapper. Another Pick & Pay invention – the notorious Stikeez. Toothpick from Ocean Basket. A piece of ‘black bag’. A green piece of unidentified plastic. Some more sweets. Tape (brown) and sliver of Nando’s wrapper below it. Cigarette box covers. Something with a barcode and the name Coca Cola (never heard of them).
ABOVE: Close-up of some of the above. In 2015 Stikeez caused endless fights between toddlers and their parents, and between rival supermarkets. A Clover wrapper (possibly one of my son’s beloved cheddar cheese cubes). Ocean Basket’s individually wrapped toothpick. Possibly a drink from Coca Cola – I see the mynas took their advice to ‘Please Recycle’. Incidentally, it looks like the company that printed this last item, also printed my LBJs book (CTP).
Several items provided useful clues as to their age. There was a yogurt top with an expiration date of 19 August 2014, and a piece of foil with the date 26 February 2012. So clearly the material was from nesting attemps spanning several years. There was more recent things as well though, such as several packets of Stikeez, the collectible toys that Pick & Pay bribed children with in 2015. I also found what looks like a pencil drawing by a child, a piece of paper with text about designs of farm buildings for cows, a 20 cm piece of pink ribbon, 8 pieces of blue and black felt, a piece of black thread about 40 cm in length, tape, a label of something called Lil’ Lizzie, made in China (a doll perhaps?), a piece of newspaper, 2 sealable Ziplock bags and much more. Many prominent brands were represented: Beacon, Cadbury, Clover, Coca Cola, Lucky Strike, McDonald’s, Nando’s, Ocean Basket, Peter Stuvesant, Pick & Pay, Sellotape, Simba…the list goes on. Essentially the only natural decoration I found was a set of beelte wings, with a nice purple sheen (possibly a fruit chafer of some sort).
ABOVE: Some foil-based decorative items, and other materials. From left to right, top to bottom: Salt. Cigarette. Halls outside, and inside. Nosh chocolate bar. Red corner may be from tea packet. More cigarette wrapping. A piece of newspaper (R!). Pencil drawing. Shiny sweets wrappers. Chappies (watermelon flavour). Yogurt roll. Shiny foil. Random blue thingamajig. Pink ribbon (probably added by the female myna). Sticker with text. Dark blue scrap. Book text. Blue-black felt. Padded packaging material. Thread. More shiny foil. Beetle wings. Chocolate bar.
ABOVE: The yogurt wrapper’s expiry date gives an idea of its age. Colourful items may be particularly attractive to the birds. In this case Simba chips, a chocolate wrapper, a packet of salt and Halls. Xtra Strong.
ABOVE: This piece of paper is quite thick (thicker than a magazine or newspaper), and is probably from a book. It seems to be talking about cows and farm buildings? A length of black thread. Lucky Strike cigarette butt. What appears to be a pencil drawing by a chlid. The blackish things are beetle wings – with a striking purple gloss at certain angles. The mysterious Lil’ Lizzie sticker – I wonder if this could be doll? It’s all man made, that we know.