We are bird lovers. We make sure they have fresh seed in a multitude of feeders and fresh water in their birdbath. We’ve tried to protect them from flying into our windows and, after finding a dead starling in a netted blueberry bush, we decided that the birds can just have the blueberries.
But it seems that our love and attention has caused havoc in the vineyard. By making sure there is food and water for our feathered friends, they have decided that this is the place to be. And just about the time Kosta Browne wants our fruit, when the grapes are ripe with sugars, the birds have decided they want our grapes, too.
We have been beset by birds flying in and out of the vineyard and picking at the fruit, primarily on the northern side along the tree line, which we’ve named “Naomi’s Block” after our granddaughter.
Because we’re a young vineyard, we haven’t had to address the issue of wine-grape predators. Turkeys, squirrels, possums, and raccoons are pests but Jake is pretty good at spotting them and getting them on the run. Jake has never really noticed the birds, except for the occasional circling hawk, which he barks at vociferously, like he is demanding that the hawk come down and fight like a dog.
The problems with birds is that they don’t just eat the grapes. Other predators, like turkeys and raccoons, will strip a cluster. Birds will poke individual grapes to get to the inner goodness. This attack on an individual grape can introduce bacteria and damage the whole cluster or even the whole vine.
By the time we noticed the bird issue, we were told by our vineyard manager and viticulturalist that it was really too late to do much about them. There are many different ways to discourage bird predation, including recordings of cannon fire, shotgun fire, predator bird calls and cries of wounded birds. Many farmers string brilliant lengths of Mylar ribbon that flap and sparkle in the breeze, startling the birds. The effectiveness of the various methods is argued long and loudly.
The reputed most effective, and most expensive, method is bird netting. Netting is laid as a canopy over an entire field or selected outer rows, since birds are lazy and may only go for the easiest accessible fruit. We’ve even seen netting tied over and under individual rows. Bird netting is a lot of work to apply and twice as hard to remove.
While we may consider this option in the future, as it is so late in the season, we decided to go with silver-and-red Mylar ribbon. We spent Labor Day tying the ribbons to the top wires, hoping the breeze will set them, and the birds, to flying. We generally only see the birds in the late afternoon, so I’ve advocated setting up a couple of cots in the vineyard and just hanging out there to shoo them away. Clay is not a big fan of that idea.
I’d like to think that when winter comes, I can again put out feed and water for the little guys. But unfortunately, I think the days of Gantz Family Vineyards as a bird sanctuary are over.
Anybody need some bird feeders?