BLUE MOUNTAIN CHRONICLES: Bird love

By Jim Ward March 28, 2014 08:45 am

Red-tailed hawks usually attack prey from trees or power poles. T-perches can be a great substitute in large open areas. Redtails will take game birds, so if that is a concern, don’t mount perches in game bird habitat. Fortunately, ground squirrels prefer open, short-grass areas that game birds usually avoid. (JIM WARD photo)
Red-tailed hawks usually attack prey from trees or power poles. T-perches can be a great substitute in large open areas. Redtails will take game birds, so if that is a concern, don’t mount perches in game bird habitat. Fortunately, ground squirrels prefer open, short-grass areas that game birds usually avoid. (JIM WARD photo)
 

Evidence of wildlife passion on display at Larson’s ranch home

Bob and Sandi Larison love wildlife. There’s evidence of that all around their small ranch just south of Ladd Marsh.

Blue bird boxes line their perimeter fences; a bat house clings to a barn wall; and barbed-wire has been replaced with collapsible gates where elk move through their pastures.  

They harbor no special fondness for rodents. Voles riddle their garden and gophers perforate their meadows. Ground squirrels poke deep holes in the horse paddock, making it dangerous to ride through. That is until they decided to encourage raptors to move in and address the carnage. 

Barn owls live under a roof over hang and kestrel boxes have been mounted on pasture posts. The owls and kestrels work over the gophers and voles, but the ground squirrels were a bit too large. They needed to enlist the aid of a larger raptor to work these meadow-munchers — the red-tailed hawk. Redtails are quite common, but they prefer to attack their prey from a tree or power pole. Unlike falcons and harriers, which hunt from the air, redtails have a greater wing-load, making it less energy-efficient to hunt off the wing. 

The Larisons started mounting t-perches along their fence lines. They’re inexpensive and simple to build. The hawks took right to ‘em. 

“We mounted one right between two squirrel colonies,” Bob Larison said. 

The Larisons watched a hawk working the perch all summer and by its end the squirrels were gone.

Certainly, there are other ways to combat pesky farm rodents — toxic poisons, traps and shooting — all of which can be dangerous to others. Kudos to the Larisons for using a wiser approach, but they shouldn’t expect to get the “Landowner-of-the-Year” award from the local rodents.