Herbie the Hawk became the newest member of our team last week. He and his brother float above the Maple Woods Vineyard and our hope is that they scare off little birds. Of course, they are just elegant kites that are tethered along the west edge of the vineyard so that the prevailing breeze from the northwest lifts them aloft to float back and forth in the wind. They require a 2–3 mile per hour breeze to work.
We have a resident hawk that sits up on a light pole but we think he is pretty lazy. We have noticed that he is taking some interest in the new hawks but we think he can’t quite decide what to make of them. Our big concern is what will happen to Herbie and his brother when the black birds find them.
So, why did we invite Herbie to join us at Maple Woods Vineyard? Our vines are being constantly scouted by finches, starlings, and other small birds. When the grapes start to ripen and these little birds find them, they will flock in by the thousands. They can strip a 15-acre vineyard of grapes in one day.
Our bird repellant alternatives are numerous but either they are expensive, noisy, or not very effective. In fact, nothing with the exception of netting is effective after 3–4 years in the same location.
Well, there is one exception and that is a real hawk and a trained handler. In the Napa Valley and parts of France, there are skilled bird handlers that make the rounds of vineyards in which expensive grapes are grown. Some have falcons and others various kinds of hawks. They are trained to fly around and look menacing and, if necessary, kill a few birds in the process. The birds get the message and look for their food elsewhere. These services are not available in Iowa and I’m told that they are very expensive.
This week, we will focus on getting ready for harvest. We will get our shops cleaned up for harvest, check out and perform preventative maintenance on our harvesting equipment, finish mowing vineyards, irrigate with our lagoon water, and take care of housekeeping chores.