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We Would Always Make Friends With a Raptor

How to keep the starlings and other pests from the vineyard.

March 01 2017

Morgan Hapeman with one of the raptors she is nursing back to health.
Morgan Hapeman with one of the raptors she is nursing back to health.

We received a call not long ago from Morgan Hapeman asking if we might allow her to use one of our open fields. She said she was nursing an injured raptor back to health, and she wanted a large space to help the tethered bird re-learn to fly. 

Raptors are "birds of prey." In other words, they are birds that hunt and feed on rodents and other small mammals. They also scare away other birds that can be pests in the vineyard. 

Of course, we said, yes, feel free to use our field. Which she did and also allowed us to observe.

We Would Always Make Friends With a Raptor section

Cornell University, nearby in Ithaca, has a distinguished veterinary program, and it often receives injured birds that are found on roadsides often after collisions with vehicles. Once the birds are stablized, they need extended convalescent care prior to being released again. 

That is where Morgan comes in. Prior to assisting with raptor recovery, she flew transport jets for United Parcel Service. She is comfortable to take-offs and landings.

We are more than happy to assist wherever possible, because on occasion, she will release a recovered bird into the tree-line to the north and south of our vineyards.

Here, Morgan is releasing a kestrel on the northern edge of one of our Riesling vineyards.
Here, Morgan is releasing a kestrel on the northern edge of one of our Riesling vineyards.

Certain varieties of grapes--Gewurztraminer, for instance--are like candy to birds. As soon as they begin to ripen they will attract birds. And as soon as the birds begin to peck at the berries, the sweet juice attracts insects which can cause additional problems. 

So fewer birds means healthier, cleaner grapes. And if the raptors that Morgan releases decide to make the tree-lines their home, they are more than welcome. Please, raptors, be our permanent neighbors. Please.  

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