We got up early Saturday morning to get Tom on the road before the morning fog burned off. He’s leaving for 2 months to work on a vineyard with his falcons. Yea, read that again. Vineyard, falcons… Pretty amazing right?
A few months ago our plans were just an idea. A risk. A leap we could take which may push us further along our list of goals, or throw us down a well of debt and unemployment. We have normal average goals like buy a house, take a trip to Europe, build a savings, live life the way we want. In our current situation those were never going to happen, so we decided to take a very planned and scheduled leap into fate.
What was the plan? For Tom to transfer from one contract to another. This means that we will have to move wherever the company puts us this winter. Right now, I don’t know where that will be yet. For now, he is living on vineyard somewhere in California scaring away all the little birds that feast on the grapes. He absolutely loves to do vineyard work. In Tom’s opinion its a falconer’s dream 8 week vacation and you get paid well too.
So what is he doing exactly?
The company Tom works for is Airstrike Bird Control. They offer bird abatement services to orchards, vineyards, farms, landfills, airports, schools and office buildings. Pretty much anywhere you have too many pest birds like seagulls, pigeons or starlings.
The sugar content in grapes begins to skyrocket during the last 6-8 weeks before the September harvest attracting all kinds of birds. I have heard that more than half a vineyard can be eaten in a weekend. Usually vineyard owners hire 5 guys on quads to shoot pyrotechnics all day, to the dismay of his non-vineyard owning neighbors. Some companies even shoot them out of the air with shotguns full of bird shot!
The problem with these tactics is that pyrotechnics can cause fires and its late summer in California, the wildfire state. Many agricultural towns in CA have outlawed the use of pyro to avoid burning the town and its thriving agriculture to the ground. Not to mention the strict rules the ATF instituted this year. Now you must have a special license through the ATF to buy and use pyro. This pretty much eliminates pyro as an option for most companies as the license is expensive and time-consuming to obtain. As for shooting the birds out of the air, that is barely legal and in my opinion irresponsible and immoral.
To protect the grapes, and other crops/landfills/airports sustainably we use trained falcons and hawks, which hunt the birds and chase them away. A flock of starlings, or any bird, will not understand what happened when a gunshot or noisemaker goes off. They fly away because of the scary noise, but they don’t associate the noise with the location or understand what happened and why. This means the same birds will keep coming back everyday to feed.
If you fly hawks and falcons on a vineyard or anywhere else, suddenly the little birds understand that bigger hungrier predators have moved into the territory and they had best move out before they become dinner. Being chased off a vineyard by a hawk sticks in their minds. It’s an ancient fear, to be eaten by a hawk, its natural for a prey species to avoid areas that are hunted by their predators. In effect, they avoid the vineyards with hawks and gorge on those vineyards that don’t.
As much as I will miss Tom I am excited for him. He has worked so hard over the last 2 years that he totally deserves this.
And be sure to tell them Tom and Melissa sent you!