2017 - Volume #41, Issue #4, Page #24[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Do-It-Yourself Bird Scare Inventions Keep Fruit Safe
“For many years, I suffered serious bird damage to crops in my small orchard,” says Spurlock. “Finally I started experimenting with bird-scare devices and came up with very effective, but low tech methods that achieve 90 percent or better effectiveness. These machines would work equally well for gardens, berry patches, or small vineyards.”
Spurlock came up with 3 different systems that he still uses today. All are activated by timers that repeat periodically through the day. He uses Titan Apollo 12 timers (Amazon.com), which are short cycle timers with light sensors so they only run during the day. Settings can be changed easily, which he does often.
“Typically I might set the timer to run for 5 to 20 sec. and then shut off for 45 to 120 sec., repeating throughout the day,” says Spurlock. “Having the devices go off and on randomly is what does the job.”
His first device was a rotating mast with a cross arm at the top he calls “bye, bye, birdie”. It’s easy to move around to different trees or sets of trees as fruit ripens.
It consists of 2 diameters of steel tubing that telescope so he can adjust the height to match the tree canopy being protected. A motorcycle shaft on the shaft gear reduction at the bottom was initially powered by a chain drive garage door opener. When the opener burned out from frequent use, he went with a 1/15 hp. electric motor with a flexible coupler. It is able to operate all day.
The rotating mast, drive and motor are mounted to a framework of scrounged angle iron and channel iron. The cross arms consist of an old sailboard mast on one end and old fishing poles on the other, giving him a working diameter of about 100 ft. He hangs a wide variety of items from the arms, from plastic jugs to pie pans, foil, cloth or plastic streamers.
“I use anything that will startle the birds,” says Spurlock. “It makes a little sound, but mostly it is the motion. I use it over a single tree or between 2 trees, and it works well.”
His second system he calls “rope-a-dope”. It consists of one or more light ropes strung through multiple trees or a block of trees at canopy level. The ropes attach to trees or poles he erects at the perimeter of the trees being protected.
“The larger network takes a lot of work to erect each year, but it does a fantastic job,” says Spurlock.
The ropes are also on timers. The drive mechanism for his larger rope system is an old washing machine motor hooked to a frame with belt-driven pulleys for gear reduction. A crank arm attached to the second pulley connects by rope to the canopy rope networks. As it turns, it pulls and releases the ropes overhead, activating all the hanging items.
Other smaller rope systems for fewer trees are driven by other repurposed items. They include a worn out band saw and an old pump jack. They all use some form of gear reducer and crank arm to jiggle the overhead rope or ropes and their suspended items.
His third bird scare system is his “bird blower.” It uses a small, low power, electric leaf blower set inside a plastic tub to reduce the noise. It is plumbed to a sewer and drain pipe and then reduced to a 2-in. pvc tube that rises through the tree and into the canopy.
“I tie the tube to the branches of the tree and duct tape a 2 to 3-ft. long piece of poly tubing to its end,” says Spurlock. “When the leaf blower starts up the plastic tubing expands, flapping and snapping in the tree, scaring the birds. You can’t use really stiff plastic or it won’t be active enough.”
He uses a router speed control to reduce the power to the blower when using it for a single tree. Full speed on this leaf blower or a larger one can power a network of up to 8 to 10 pipes and plastic tubes.
“You do have to replace plastic bags every few days as they get very frazzled; however, it’s worth it as the system is very effective,” says Spurlock. “All of the methods work, and I still use each of them. Each has its place. There is no perfect system, and everyone can adapt these ideas to their own needs.”
Check out Spurlock’s bird scare systems at www.farmhack.com, an online community of small farmers who like to tinker.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Sunny Slope Orchard, 3574 Cantelow Rd., Vacaville, Calif. 95688 (ph 707 448-4792; firstname.lastname@example.org).
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