As much I think I may know about how certain birds impact crops and winegrape crops in particular, nothing beats getting out right after the harvest season to find out directly from the growers what this particular season was like.
Since I am serious about getting into the bird control business around my home town of Boise, it was time to get out there and talk to people. Yesterday morning, after chasing some jackrabbits around with my red-tailed hawk, Morrigan south of Kuna Cave, I thought about Indian Creek Winery west of Kuna. I had been by there before many times; a lovely part of the valley. It is by no accident that vineyards are best located in the prettiest countryside places.
On my first pass, I took notice of the sturdy, well established vines along McDermott Road. The light-colored, loamy soil was weed free and loose looking. One wind machine stood out in the middle of the field for frost protection in the spring. Humm, a nice hawk perch I thought, as long as it was not spinning.
I don't know why I am always a little nervous about dropping in on busy people cold. (it was cold out!) Finally, I summoned my nerve and pulled into their winery parking lot, where I immediatly encountered Bill Stowe, winemaker and owner. Something about having a big hawk on your fist breaks the ice with people you have never met. He stopped the fork lift he was busy with and greeted me warmly. Bill's daughter Tammy joined us for a quick, teeth chattering chat about the critters around their lovely place.
Morrigan might have been interested in some of the rabbits and squirrels around the winery, but it was the flying, grape eaters that move in during ripening time that I was interested in finding out about. Apparantly the beloved (?) robin is the main culprit. Robins react differently to raptors than big flocking species like starlings. Whereas a peregrine falcon may force a big flock of starlings out of a big vineyard very quickly, robins will merely hide in the foliage until the threat is gone. Then they resume gobbling fruit. An ambushing, cover- loving hawk, like a Coopers hawk, is the most effective on the thrush family. They incite total fear in birds trying to be sneaky in the vines.
I recently read about an operation in Santiago, Chile's extensive vineyards using Aplamado Falcons, which are more hawk-like than Peregrines, and the SouthAmerican version of the Cooper's Hawk, the Bi-colored hawk. The Aplamado has a most cooperative and friendly manner with man, much like the Harris' Hawk.
The project falconers primary target was the Austral Thrush, Chile's version of our Robin.
Robin's are a protected(and beloved bird, right?) species. Aww, another hitch.
The Stowes had apparently just invested in bird netting, which was effective, yet a hassle to put up and take down. Their 15 or so acres would require a different approach, with different raptors, than say a couple of hundred acres above the Snake River.
They invited me back to visit again on Father's Day. Probably will have a new eyass falcon in training by then that will benefit from some crowd exposure. Hope Cloverdale Nursery will give me Father's Day off. Its still a little busy in mid- June. I might even have to consider pulling an eyass Coopers this summer too. They are pretty common, yet secretive nesters in the mountains close to Boise. There may even be some urban nesting Coopers now like there are in Arizona and elsewhere. I saw an adult female packing a bird into a grove of trees in Caldwell last June. Coopers Hawks are not overly popular with falconers due to some behavioral challenges. When you manage to develop a good one, they are awesome. They are above the abilitylevel of most falconers of little experience.
I bid Bill and Tammy adieu and put Morrigan back in the SUV. She wasn't real happy about getting in. I am sure she was thinking "Why aren't we going to hunt this place, Dad?" "It looks good !"
So much more research to be done. So many more places to visit. I love it. Merry Christmas(or whatever you observe) and a HNY to all.