Grape loss before harvest season
Scott Ellenbecker recalled that he hadn’t been able to produce his white variety of grapes for three years, which are very sweet and fragrant. This type of grape covers two acres of vineyard, and because of the bird damage he hadn’t been able to harvest.
Scott stated “We use netting, but it takes many people to put it over 30 acres of grapes, and this can be very expensive”. He also tried setting up propane cannons on a timer, but found that the cannon sounding pop only kept the birds away for a few days, and then they would have to move the cannons around.
The vineyard was also using electronic bird distress calls. They turned on a speaker with sounds of robins or starlings in pain and predator birds such as raptors and eagles. This warned other birds that the area was a threat. This method is a short term fix and not a permanent solution. Scott Ellenbecker explained that ultimately they had not found anything that worked to keep birds away.
That is when he saw an article on the laser bird deterrent system being used in farming operations, and in July 2019, he immediately bought two units. Last year one of the Autonomic systems was installed close to the somerset seedless grapes before these grapes began to ripen. In previous years this grape would have been eaten and damaged by the middle of August. However, last year they had no damage from birds in that part of the vineyard, after almost three years of bird damage.
Scott Ellenbecker emphasized that “the birds can get through the netting, the birds hang on the side, peck through them, and the birds can slip through the gaps in the nets.” Birds will begin to migrate back to the north in April or May, and ultimately next in the Round Lake area. In the fall they’ll gather before migrating south. There can be 200 or more birds in a flock. A flock of robins can eat 3-tons of grapes in two to three days.
Efficient and effective bird control method
Round Lake Vineyards found that the laser bird deterrent system was effective because it scanned over the area it covered, pushing the birds away. They can target places where birds fly to and land because of a choice of 16 different pattern systems. The lasers move at varying speeds and directions to keep birds away effectively. Even smarter birds do not get accustomed to the systems.
Round Lake Vineyards and Winery has won many awards for their high-quality wines. Due to the fact that the region is more challenging to grow grapes, it is even more satisfying for them when they have a successful harvest.
“We’re open to trying new things to keep our vineyard from becoming a giant bird feeder. We don’t blame them for wanting to eat our grapes – they’re delicious! We just want to send them somewhere else.”
Scott Ellenbecker, Owner of Round Lake Vineyards & Winery