Page The Birds

Anyone who has been traumatized by the Hitchcock classic “The Birds” would understand the chills that are currently inhabiting my spine.  As our first Pinot berries start to turn colour, so return the first starlings to terrorize my parents and I for the next three months.

Like the movie, our bird conundrum always starts with a few nosy stragglers and quickly advances to throngs of grape-thirsty beasts, hell-bent on vineyard devastation.  On the front lines, my dad is our General Patton, always devising new schemes to divert the feathered assassins from their target.   My mom is his trusty foot soldier, known to employ old fashioned yelling, clapping and even the banging of pots and pans in weaker moments.

I’m the net man.  Through the years we’ve experimented with about every bird control technique ever invented, only to realize that the physical netting of the grapes is the only answer.  It’s labour intensive, expensive and it works, plain and simple.

The problem with bird pecks is that it only takes one to spoil an entire bunch of grapes.  So preventing these pecks and the subsequent rot is paramount to the success of tight-cluster varieties like Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.  In our Pinot Noir we use a permanent netting system that is unfurled shortly after veraison and then gets rolled back up and stays in the vineyard after harvest in the fall.  In the Pinot Gris we’ve opted for temporary netting that must be put up and taken down every year.  It’s a little more work, but it should give us a more mileage out of the nets.

The bird pressure usually dies down once the early varieties are picked, but our guard is always up.  Left unattended, we could potentially lose a significant portion of our crop.  Yet another one of the pitfalls of growing grapes in Niagara!

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