Harvest is exciting for several reasons, not least of all because it’s the culmination of a vine’s year of hard work. It’s also exciting, though, because the moments preceding harvest bring with them a series of obstacles — dangers, if you will —  that aren’t present until the grapes reach their peak ripeness.

One of these dangers is a fearsome winged creature:

starling

The American Starling.

These lovely little chirpers, cute as they may be, are a significant danger to the grapes. To address these pesky birds, our vineyard team searched high and low for different methods of shooing them away. Our solution came in the form of one of the Starlings’ natural predators, the falcon.

jim-index

Meet Beebe and Jim. Jim, a Master Falconer, and Beebe, a 7-year-old  Saker falcon, are experts at scaring starlings away from the Ram’s Gate Estate Vineyard.

Jim is a part of Tactical Avian Predators, a Reno-based company that specializes in training birds like Beebe the Falcon to patrol agricultural areas all across the West Coast. But his work with the falcons is far more than a career path: one look at a bird on his arm shows how much he cares about his aviary team. The team even lived on the vineyard for the few weeks leading up to harvest for an instant commute to their daily work.

When Jim’s team goes to work in the vineyard, Jim releases Beebe (or another falcon on duty) as well as his dog, Annabel. Annabel runs through the vines searching for birds, and when she barks to signal her find, Beebe zooms across the sky toward the starlings.These birds are trained to scare, not to kill; as their peak speeds can be as high as over 200 miles per hour, it’s an easy task to send the starlings flying.

The best part of the whole scenario for us, of course, is that the sustainable vineyard practices result in better wine, period.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5elonSbA4EE&w=420&h=315]
Jim and his team will be spending several days a week around the winery, both to work and to visit with guests. Follow us on Twitter to be in the know about when these beautiful birds will be around.

Thanks so much to these newest members of the Ram’s Gate Winery team for protecting our fruit in such a sustainable way. Cheers!

More on Jim and his team:

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