On any given day of driving around the vineyards, I will see quite a few different species of mammals (besides the human kind), reptiles (besides the human kind, again), amphibians, and insects. Some of these critters are not the most welcome inhabitants of our vineyards, such as the California Ground Squirrel, pocket gophers, and leaf hoppers. Ground Squirrels and gophers love burrowing under our vines and chewing on things that we’d rather not have them eat and destroy. Leaf hoppers like to chew on leaves, which reduce the plant’s ability to photosynthesize. Fortunately, we have things like hawks, snakes, coyotes, barn owls, and lacewings. These predators help us keep the pest population down. They also work for free!
Our farm ecosystem is something we hold near and dear. One way that we encourage biological means of pest control is with our owl boxes that our placed throughout the vineyards. These nocturnal creatures can be seen swooping just above our canopy during the night and early morning hours. They do a great job of keeping the nocturnal vertebrate pests in check, like gophers, field mice, and voles. Typically, a barn owl will eat 3-4 rodents a night, which can amount to 4000+ rodents a year to feed them and their offspring! We don’t use any poison to kill gophers in our vineyard, because we don’t want to poison the owls.
Most of our new owl boxes are made by Walt Weller of Central Coast Owl Boxes. Walt is a very friendly gentleman, who crafts his owl boxes to very high standards. His boxes have a separate room to keep offspring safe from predators. They are painted with UV resistant paint to keep the owls cool, and they are very easy to clean and maintain. Walt loves to visit Talley Vineyards and checks his boxes for inhabitants, providing a list of all the new inhabitants every spring!