Meet the falcon-whisperer of napa valley wine country _ munchies

In the misty afternoon light, as the sun shines hard on Bouchaine Vineyards in Napa Valley, Rebecca Rosen strides into the vines, her thick blonde hair braided alongside her left shoulder. Italian sausage pasta recipes for dinner Her hybrid breed Gyr-Prairie falcon, an impressive brown-and-white specimen about one-foot high, with yellow claws and a leather helmet covering its skull and eyes, is perched on her other shoulder. Italian pasta sausage recipe It’s the fourth vineyard on Rosen’s agenda today, and she’ll probably hit two more, later.

Italian sausage soup recipe During harvest season, her services as a falconer are in high demand. Italian sausage and peppers pasta recipe After whispering some nurturing words into the falcon’s feathery neck, Rosen removes its helmet, strokes it kindly, and then sends it up into the bright azure sky, where it flaps its wings and begins making large circles around the vineyard, its four-foot wingspan visible for miles. Recipe for italian sausage and pasta From below, Rosen watches proudly; after several minutes, when the falcon has made his presence known to all the area birds, Rosen waves a rope in the air to lure him back. Italian sausage and kale soup recipe Once he is safe on the rope, she snuggles the helmet back onto his head, and hands him a tiny, live baby chick—a reward for his efforts.

Although vineyards typically benefit from biodiversity—some larger insects will eat vine-devouring pests, for instance—they also struggle to keep small birds away from sugar-rich, ripe berries, especially toward the end of their growing cycle, when growers are counting on those grapes to become dollars (particularly in places like Napa, which makes very expensive wine). Spaghetti recipe with italian sausage Birds of prey from the hawk or falcon families are a natural, simple way to keep them at bay, without inflicting any violence upon them. Homemade italian sausage recipes from italy Rosen’s falcon, named Ziggy, is really just a decoy—it doesn’t actually hunt, but simply scares off berry-consuming birds with its mighty presence.

“Ziggy never really wanted to hunt, for some reason,” explains Rosen. Mild italian sausage slow cooker recipes “Most of our falcons don’t hunt—they’re trained to lure fly.” Ziggy, one of nine falcons that Rosen works with, was born on a breeding farm, and its unique nature made it ideal for abatement employment.

Rosen started her company, Authentic Abatement, in 2011, after spending several years learning the art of falconry. Pasta italian sausage recipe She now makes a proper living in probably one of the most unusual and highly skilled trades on the planet. Italian sausage pasta recipe jamie oliver In addition to vineyards, Rosen also employs her falcons at dairies, Air Force bases, nuclear plants, and industrial refineries. Recipe italian sausage pasta “It’s sort of a skill and an art, [and] everybody does it a little differently,” says Rosen. Italian sausage pasta bake recipe “To train a bird, depending on its background, if it’s just from a breeder, it needs to calm down first and associate you with food. Homemade italian chicken sausage recipe That can take as much as several months, or it can be as little as a month.”

Although California has long been dominated by agriculture, it’s really only since the late 1970s, when the Napa Valley’s fame rose—thanks to a blind tasting called the Judgment of Paris, where a Napa cabernet beat out its French counterparts, to everyone’s surprise—that grape farming has effectively become a monoculture in the region. Italian turkey sausage recipes The 1968 Agricultural Preserve was passed to protect Napa’s forests and riverside ecosystems from development, for grapes or otherwise—a total of 32,000 acres are set aside under this ordinance. Italian sausage and potato soup recipe Only about 9 percent of land in Napa is planted to grapes, but that’s still 45,000 acres of viticulture, and it has an effect on the environment. Recipe mild italian sausage “Because of the monoculture up here in the North Bay, there’s a monospecies—a few different species of birds who are really adaptable to this habitat,” says Rosen. Mild italian sausage recipes for dinner And, “they’ve created this huge population explosion,” with these few species effectively crowding out native birds, like quails, sparrows, and black phoebes, which prefer to nosh on insects or seeds rather than grapes. Italian sausage recipe fennel Global warming and lighter winters contribute to the decimation of the native bird habitats, says Rosen. Italian sausage recipe pasta A point of pride for her is that her beloved falcons are helping to combat this influx of non-native berry-eating birds.

“Birds stay together in large blocks to feel safe,” explains Rosen. Italian sausage bowtie pasta recipe “The falcon breaks up the block, and pushes them out into smaller groups, which split up. Traditional italian sausage recipe Blue birds, you want in your vineyard, and they’ll be the ones who stay. Italian sausage recipe oven You don’t want a sterile vineyard with no birds.” On the contrary, the native birds do only a “small amount” of damage to the vineyards, and meanwhile, “they help spread seeds and eat bugs.”

Aside from having Rosen and other falconers trolling their vineyards, vintners in the Napa Valley install wooden birdhouses among their vines to attract predators, like owls. Best homemade italian sausage recipe But small birds aren’t the only threat to grape farming; wild turkeys, which the state of California encouraged to breed as a game species, are known to gobble up all the low-hanging fruit, especially sweeter grapes like merlot. Recipe italian sausage soup Turkeys can’t really be abated by falcons, says Rosen. Mild italian sausage pasta recipe Falconry may not be an all-purpose solution, and it has its drawbacks—sometimes, Rosen says, the berry-eating invasive birds return just hours after she has let her falcon do its thing, and she has to repeat the whole ritual for double effect—but falconry is definitely part of the solution to the challenges of monoculture grape-growing. Spicy italian sausage soup recipe Falconers like Rosen are making a huge contribution to the overall well-being of the wine industry, as well as the ecosystem that allows it to thrive.

To become an abatement falconer like Rosen, you would have to start off as a sport falconer, and spend a few years in training before learning the art of abatement. Italian sausage with pasta recipe Then, there’s a five-year period before it’s possible to get the license to practice. Pork italian sausage recipe But the hard work does pay off—Rosen works tirelessly during harvest, which in the Napa Valley runs from August, for the early-picking grapes, to late September for Bordeaux varieties that need more hang time. Italian sausage penne pasta recipe She’ll hit as many as ten vineyards per day during that time, but once it’s over, she can take a few months off. Italian sausage pasta recipes with alfredo sauce There’s also the perk of spending all day outside, in the fresh air and California sun. Recipe for making italian sausage And for animal lovers, it’s a great job: “The relationship with the birds is amazing. Easy italian sausage pasta recipe I’d compare it to people who ride horses,” says Rosen. Robert’s homemade italian sausage recipe Each relationship is “unique and individual,” and based on trust.

Of course, you might also expect that one bonus of this job would be access to great wine. Easy spicy italian sausage pasta recipe Ironically, though, Rosen’s favorite wines come from Coronado Vineyards, in her home state of Arizona; she’s particularly fond of their rieslings. Italian turkey sausage recipes dinner Otherwise, says Rosen, she’s likely to be drinking a lush red blend from Ménage á Trois, made with grapes from all over California. Emeril italian sausage recipe When her Napa clients do give her bottles, Rosen saves them for special occasions, savoring the taste of something she—and her fleet of loyal falcons—helped to preserve.