We often talk about sustainability here at Rathfinny, and that takes many forms from repurposing our menu’s in the restaurant for scrap paper to the introduction of paper rather than plastic spray guards around the young vines. One thing we haven’t really touched on is bird control.

Birds have the potential to cause devastating effects on vineyards and do so all over the world. From small species pecking holes in berries which then lead to diseases such as botrytis, to large flocks of starlings completely eating whole sections of fruit. In some instances, they have been known to consume 80 percent of some vineyards fruit. Obviously, we don’t want this, then our wonderful sparkling wine would be in even more limited supply!

We have been using netting to protect the fruit over the past few years, and we continue to do so, it is, however, expensive and labour intensive, but we now have a secret weapon to add to this – or two in fact – Nico and Bella.

They are two Saker Falcons who, along with their trainer and handler Elliot, have been patrolling the vineyard scaring off smaller (and sometimes larger) birds.

Eliot Holding a Falcon

Saker Falcons are native to open grasslands, so our land here at Rathfinny is ideal for them to exercise. Today they are considered endangered due to habitat loss so by raising and training these beautiful creatures in captivity it can help to conserve them for future generations.

These guys are the ultimate in bird control, they are intimidating to anything in the vicinity, and who wouldn’t be scared of them, to have a fast-moving large bird of prey flying overhead must be alarming to smaller species. And we’ve certainly noticed a decline in the vineyard bird population since they’ve been here. It’s a wonderful use of a natural resource.

By having them exercise year-round the local bird population will know it’s not advisable to take up residence here.

Many thanks to Elliot and in particular Nico and Bella, they’re doing a wonderful job of keeping the birds at bay.

Flying Saker Falcon