Tuesday, September 19, 2006

fame for a friend

A friend of mine may be on TV pretty soon. Sometime in the next couple weeks, Teri Hatcher will have a segment on Entertainment Tonight, wherein she travels to the ridiculously hot Napa Valley to taste wine. My friend Karl flies falcons at this winery (he works at several; he told me its name, but I forgot immediately) to keep crop-predating birds from eating the grapes.

According to him, flying falcons works better than nets, flash tape, and various other methods. I've spent about 5 or 6 days hanging out with him at Cakebread over the past few years, and I've seen how starling-distress calls, broadcast at tremendous volume, do absolutely nothing. The trouble is that flock birds get used to anything that isn't obviously out to kill them.

The falcons don't usually actually catch/kill the starlings. Just their presence, that predator shape that is implanted with a blaring warning label in every smaller bird's brain, is enough. All you have to do is lure-fly the bird for ten minutes every hour or two. Lure flying is playing keep-away with the falcon using a hand-sized leather item on a string, bird-shaped, which the falcon associates with food. You swing it around your head and, when the bird comes close, whip it out of the way just in time. If the bird tags it, she gets it, game over. It takes practice to not hit yourself with the lure, because unless you know the bird's flying pattern well, you're swinging that lure in all sorts of unexpected directions trying to keep it away from her.

So -- Teri Hatcher is at the winery and will probably be shown playing with an eagle owl and a few other of Karl's birds. Hard to say whether his mug will actually make it onto national television. He's a plump guy, but more photogenic and smaller than Hurley. And he's extremely good at lure-flying; he can play his falcon into moving into spectacular directions -- such as right over the audience's head, or right where the cameras will get their best shots.

For all I know, though, the editors could make it look like Teri Hatcher's lure-flying those birds.

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