Good Fruit Grower

April 15

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where they also nest. "I've definitely seen a difference in our vole and mouse population in the orchard since putting up barn owl boxes." To encourage raptors to patrol his wheat fields, David Brewer has planted tall trees for raptors to perch in. "In open wheat fields, the limiting factor is a place to perch," he said, adding that he's also installed barn owl boxes in a barn. about twice a year. "And my dad does a lot of shooting," he said. Most growers in the area—even cattle ranchers—leave coyotes alone to encourage them to prey on squirrels and smaller rodents. Red-tailed, rough-legged, and ferruginous hawks all hunt squirrels, according to Pitz of Northwest Wildlife Consultants. The red-tailed hawk, one of the most common hawks in North America, is found in all types of terrain, but needs perching places to be effective. "They're perch-and-drop hunters," Pitz said of the large hawks. "The big-bodied hawks can't fly for long periods of time because they expend too much energy when flying. They like to sit for long periods of time, and perches help them do that." Perches placed up above the tree canopy can give raptors an overview of the orchard and encourage them to hunt there. "You want to get any type of raptor into your orchard that you can," said Pitz, adding that there's no such thing as a bad raptor on a farm. Even great horned owls are good hunters. And though they have a reputation for taking out domestic cats, he believes that most cats are formidable hunters and the likelihood of losing a pet cat is small. • Perseverance The growers, who took part in a panel discussion at a raptor workshop, agreed that patience and perseverance are needed when putting up owl boxes. "It's really easy to get frustrated when you put up 50 boxes and you see only 5 to 10 occupied," said Dahle. "Our first year, we had three owls occupy boxes that were made totally all wrong, and none occupy the perfectly made boxes." He views 5 to 10 percent occupancy as a success. "Even if only 5 are filled, that's five families getting 3,000 gophers each." Dahle sees 15 to 20 percent occupancy in other bird boxes (kestrels, bluebirds, other insect-eating birds). The highest occupancy he's ever observed in his bird boxes is 30 to 40 percent. He's also found that kestrel boxes are attractive to pygmy owls, a species extremely aggressive in attacking starlings. Mike Omeg, a grower in The Dalles, said that in his first year of putting raptors to work, only two of 50 boxes were occupied. But the next year he had 20 boxes serving as owl homes. Now, he has 75 boxes, and almost 50 are filled with barn owls. Not all boxes have clutches; some are used by single adults as bachelor or bachelorette pads. But, he points out, even single birds hunt rodents. Patient Growers must be patient when first setting up owl and kestrel boxes, says wildlife biologist Tim Pitz, who was also part of the raptor workshop in The Dalles. "It takes time and experimentation," Pitz said, noting that humans can't always create everything that the birds want. As humankind has changed the landscape, planting a monoculture of vineyards and orchards, or other crops, what's now lacking for many birds of prey is a home, he said. "If you can put a home for them in the middle of your orchard, then they now have a home and a food source." Gray diggers While the three tree fruit growers are noticing a difference in their gopher and vole populations, they are still having problems with ground squirrels, commonly referred to as "gray diggers." Barn owls don't control squirrels because the owls are nocturnal hunters and squirrels are only out of their burrows during the day. Ground squirrels have been a particular problem at Dahle Orchards. "We've lost whole blocks of fruit on young trees to squirrels, where they come in and eat every single cherry," said Dahle. He and his father now use a lot of corrugated tubing for bait stations that they set up in hot spots. The stations are filled with bait Nut ri- Cal Effects of Using Nutri-Cal with Nutri-K on Cherries Effec Effe cts ffec Nutr Cal ri% MARKETABLE GRADES OF BING CHERRIES 80 70 Nutri-Cal 36% Increase in Premium Grade 8.5-9! 80 BRIX QUALITY OF BING CHERRIES 25 21.25% 20 17.00% 56.7 60 50 44.2 15 40 10 30 20 20 5 10 0 PREMIUM MEDIUM 0 Application Rate of 2 Quarts Nutri-Cal & 1 Quart Nutri-K Applied 6 times beginning at Petal Fall 2011 Application Dates: May 23, May 27, June 3, June 11, June 19, June 24 Ron Britt & Associates, Yakima, WA 2012 FIRMNESS EVALUATION OF BING CHERRIES % PREMIUM COLORS OF BING CHERRIES 370 100 369.50 g 369 368 367 95.75 95 90 366.28 g 89.25 85 366 80 365 364 GRAMS FORCE TO SQUEEZE SKIN 1mm 75 COMBINED MAHOGANY & DARK MAHOGANY Make Sure You Always Ask For ® ® C.S.I. CHEMICAL CORP. 800-247-2480 PACIFIC NORTHWEST Walt Grigg: 509-952-7558 10980 Hubbell Ave., Bondurant, Iowa 50035 GOOD FRUIT GROWER April 15, 2013 33

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