As we watch this years’ small hazelnut and walnut crop develop, we’re keeping an eye on the stellar jay and red squirrel population. These critters are problematic for any small nut orchard from August to October and they typically work dawn to dusk until the supply runs out.
We have no desire to net our 250 tree orchard for the short two to three-month window when the crop is most vulnerable. Instead we have been informally learning about the use of a trained raptor as a scare tactic.
This week I took a short ‘taster’ course on falconry so we can begin preparations for the long road to actually having a raptor of our own. I am now head over heels smitten with developing a potential relationship with a Harris’s hawk, the most social of the raptors used for falconry.
The Harris’s is considered a ‘beginner’ falconry bird because of its’ social nature and ability to train for numerous duties. Participants had the opportunity to walk with the hawk through the woods and practice recall. It was not unlike walking a dog, except I couldn’t keep my eyes off this majestic bird darting ahead in the trees and wishing I could join her as she flew from tree to tree along the path. The mere presence of such a hawk in our fields during the crucial months would scare off any nut lovin’ jay or squirrel.
It will take us at least two years to train and obtain a permit for this integrated pest management approach and I’m looking forward to every step of the falconry experience.