Man vs Wild–Orchard style

“The birds are in the cherries again. Your father says its personal this time!”  If you have seen the commercial about the squirrels, you know what I’m talking about. I can’t even tell you what the commercial is for, but I laugh every time I see it. Except birds and cherries are no laughing matter.

For as long as I can remember, birds and cherries have been a bad combination. You see, sweet cherries are a gourmet meal for hungry flocks of birds. But the devastation they can do to a cherry crop in short order hits a cherry grower right where it hurts, in the wallet! Seeing clusters of beautiful cherries reduced to pecked up cherry mash can make a grown man cry, or at least get angry and frustrated.

When I was a kid my dad gave me a BB gun and sent me out to eliminate the problem. I think he knew I wasn’t much of a threat to the bird population at that age. But having a person spend the day wandering around the orchard was a deterrent in itself. I thought I was protecting the crop, and I probably was. Just not in the way I imagined. Later he bought a propane fueled cannon. The noise was deafening every time it fired! It worked at first. The birds would fly out of the orchard like they were on fire with each “BANG”! But after a while either the birds did become deaf, or they just got used to it. I would flinch every time it went off. The birds, not so much.

Propane cannon

Propane cannon

These days we have more technology to help us. Scare-eye balloons suspended above the orchard give the birds the feeling they are being watched by something much bigger than they are. It makes them nervous.

Scare-eye Balloon

Scare-eye balloon

But what really helps today are the recorded bird distress calls that we broadcast through the orchard. When Joe Starling comes flying into the trees with his heart set on a cherry delight, he hears something that strikes fear in his cherry loving heart. The recorded sound of a starling screaming in wounded terror! Just like that, Joe turns tail and flies out of there! Or he may hear the sound of a Cooper’s Hawk looking for a starling dinner. We have sounds for 5 or 6 birds that are our biggest pests. They aren’t foolproof. Hunger outweighs fear for some of the birds. But at least it helps the problem.

Broadcast speaker

Broadcast speaker

We can’t stop the pesky birds entirely. But we try to limit the damage, and in a few weeks we hope to have cherries ready for harvest. They will get some. Hopefully we will get more!

Have a fruitful week!

Tom Moelker

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