Category Archives: Hawk

Peregrine Falcons, The Polar Vortex and Other Glimpses of The Oregon Wine Symposium

I felt like Barbarrosa was asking me "What's to eat?"
I felt like Barbarrosa was asking me “What’s to eat?”

I have been away from the farm for the past couple of days attending The Oregon Wine Symposium in Portland, Oregon.  Trust me, it’s not as glamorous as it sounds.  Lots of hours spent sitting in rooms listening to experts discuss Vineyard Nutrition, Alternative Weed Management and National Distribution.   So rather than bore you with all of that, I’ll just stick to the highlights.  Like these two impressive birds that are, I kid you not, falcons with jobs.  The top falcon is Barbarrosa, a female Peregrine Falcon.  The other is Copper, a male Red-Naped Shaheen.  (Nope, I hadn’t heard of it either before today).

Copper, the Red-Naped Shaheen.
Hard Working Copper, the Red-Naped Shaheen.

These falcons are hired along with their handlers at harvest time to patrol vineyards for migratory birds that eat grapes.  It’s an important job.  A flock of hungry birds could wipe out our whole 13-acre vineyard and an entire year’s work in a matter of hours.  I’d love to hire these falcons to chase birds out of our vineyard.  But it costs tens-of-thousands of dollars to have a handler and a couple of birds camp on your land for several weeks during harvest.  That’s more than a small vineyard like ours can spend.  Still, it’s cool to know larger vineyards are using this natural and (mostly) non-lethal means of bird control.  (FYI, we use noise makers, remote control airplanes, our six dogs, and balloons.  Cheap and non-lethal, but also not super effective.)

Jet Stream Arctic Oscillation.  Image borrowed from NOAA and The National Climate Data Center.
Jet Stream Arctic Oscillation. Image borrowed from NOAA and The National Climate Data Center.

The most exciting speaker I’ve heard so far is the climate expert that explained why everyone’s weather is so crazy right now.   He says the water around The North Pole is warmer than normal, which is causing the jet stream to freak out.   These two globes tell the story. The jet stream on the left is normal and the one on the right is freaking out. When the jet stream fluctuates like that, it not only moves more slowly, which causes weather systems to get stuck, it also produces more extreme weather.  So whatever is going on weather-wise where you are, it’s probably unusual, possibly extreme, and it’s sticking around for a very long time. That’s the best I can explain it.  Click here to read a great webpage about it that’s written by actual scientists.  Also, if you follow such things, a La Nada weather pattern is lingering in the Pacific but the dreaded El Nino could return sometime this fall or next winter.

Big Backhoe
The T-Rex of Backhoes

I also got to see some mega machines!  I think this backhoe is the biggest.  It towers over everything in the exhibition hall, kind of like the biggest dinosaur skeleton in a museum.  I have no idea how they got this in the building or what you would use it for in the vineyard.  But it is getting a lot of attention.

Mega Grape Harvester and Hedger.
A Mover and Shaker in the Vineyard

If the backhoe is the T-Rex of the expo, this piece of gear is the Stegosaurus.  It is an automatic harvest machine that’s designed to drive between the rows in the vineyard and shake the vines to loosen the fruit.  The shaking is done by big arms that fold out, so you don’t see those in the picture.  Nothing like this is used in any vineyard ever I’ve seen.  We’re all so small in Elkton, our fruit is hand-picked.  A piece of gear like this runs hundreds-of-thousands of dollars.  You’d have to sell a lot of wine to justify that kind of expense.

Got Growler!
Got Growler!

Finally, here’s  peek at the future of wine packaging.  These jugs are called Growlers.  They’ve long been used for beer and now they are being legalized in states, including Oregon, for wine.  A Growler is a refillable container that can be filled with wine straight out of the barrel or from a keg.  So if this is legal where you live, you can buy a Growler and take it to a winery or pub to be refilled again and again.

Growler Art
Examples of Growler Art done for breweries.

Growlers can be painted or etched with cool artwork or logos, which can turn them into collector’s items.  And, they eliminate the cost and environmental impact of using an individual wine bottle for every 750ml of wine.  Of everything we do in the vineyard and winery, the production and shipping of glass bottles has the greatest carbon footprint.  Growlers and kegs are a direction we want to go with our Big Leaf wine because we think it’s more environmental and more fun.  So it’s exciting to find Growlers like the green glass ones above that are being made specifically for the wine industry.  The amber-colored glass used for beer growlers isn’t the image I want for a premium wine.

Some cool artwork in the Oregon Convention Center.  A Dale Chihuly, perhaps?
Some cool artwork in the Oregon Convention Center. A Dale Chihuly, perhaps?

So now you know some of the fun stuff wine people talk about at their symposiums and trade shows.   It’s probably not what you expected.  But it’s the biz.  I’m off now to learn about the spread of Red Blotch Disease on the west coast, and then Public Relations.  More later from the farm.


May His Spirit Forever Soar

A Raptor Takes Flight Over the Vineyard.
A Raptor Takes Flight Over the Vineyard.

It is a very sad day on the farm.   We got the news that Hawkey Puck, the injured hawk Bob pulled out of the highway on Tuesday, did not make it.  He passed away late last night at Cascade Raptor Center in Eugene, a refuge for injured raptors.

I went up to the barn after hearing the news and sat for a long while with Orange Kitty in my lap.  He is a sensitive cat and always seems to know when I need a hug.  One thing you can never escape on a farm is the frailty of life.  Be it barn cats, or injured hawks, it hurts to lose a soul you’ve come to see as part of your family.

We are grateful to Cascade Raptor Center for giving him his best chance for survival and failing that, a peaceful death.  Animals seem to know when humans are trying to help them.  I believe Hawkey Puck knew those around him were on his side.  I am glad he didn’t die alone.

All we can do is our best to make each day a good one and to appreciate those who are here while we’re all together.

Towards that end, Murphy and the rest of the dogs want a run in the vineyard.  And so, we are off.  God Speed Hawkey Puck.


Flight for Life

While on his way to physical therapy yesterday, Bob noticed a motionless hawk in the middle of the road.  It was just this side of the tunnel on Highway 38 as you head out of Elkton.   Bob assumed the hawk was dead and pulled over to move it out of traffic.

But when Bob approached the hawk, it’s right eye popped open!  The hawk was still alive.  Badly hurt, but alive.

Bob gathered up the hawk and made a nest for it in a pile of clothes in his car that he’s supposed to drop off at Good Will.  Bob didn’t think the hawk was going to last much longer.  But he figured it would be more comfortable dying in the warm car than in the highway in the rain.  He continued on to Eugene, parked in the health club parking garage, and went in for his therapy.

When he came out, he was stunned to see the hawk was still alive!  It even kicked at him a little bit!!  So he looked up the closest raptor rescue on his cell phone and rushed over.

When he arrived, the volunteers sprang into action.  They put the hawk on an IV, checked his vitals, treated him for possible poisons, and dusted him for mites.  They identified him as a juvenile male Red Tail Hawk.  They speculated the quiet time in the car might have helped revive him a bit.  But they weren’t sure he would survive the night.

Hawky Puck, down but not out.
Hawkey Puck, down but not out.

I didn’t want to post about the hawk if he didn’t make it.   But I  checked with the rescue today and he’s hanging in there!  He can move his wings and legs, but remains very still and withdrawn.  His vet thinks he has a severe head injury, but whatever internal bleeding there may have been appears to have stopped.  It’s too soon to be optimistic.  But there is reason to hope.

We’ve named him Hawkey Puck (as in hockey puck).  Everyone on the farm has their paws, hooves and fingers crossed.  Our hope is he will recover enough to be released back into the wild.  But if not, the rescue will become his permanent home.

The Cascade Raptor Center in Eugene Oregon is caring for him and dozens of other raptors they’ve saved that cannot be released.  Donations are always welcome.

We consider Hawkey Puck a member of our farm family now and we’ll keep everyone posted on his progress here on the blog.   Go Hawkey Puck!