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September 2012 – Feeding the birds

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When Amos Machlin took on this retirement farming project he didn’t anticipate that his biggest challenge would be keeping the birds away.

With 900 Pecan trees and many hundred Macadamia trees, Amos’s biggest customer is the Carnaby Black Cockatoos. Unfortunately they are not paying customers. This year the birds completely cleaned out the Macadamia nuts.

Amos is not one to give up easily, having worked as the City of Perth, Chief Engineer for over 10 years, he has the knowledge and lateral thinking to overcome most challenges. This year he celebrates his biggest Pecan harvest with over 15 tonnes of nuts. The bumper season is attributed to a good previous winter, and a mild summer, but the biggest reason for such a large harvest is that Amos managed to keep the birds away.

After trying all the bird “scaring devices”, with no long term success, Amos was desperate for a solution. He resorted to the oldest known technique; employing a local person to frighten the birds.

Amos shares, “She was very good, very dedicated and very effective. Two hours every morning and afternoon she would visit the property with the purpose of scaring the
birds. Using the cannons and firing bird fright pellets, she saved the Pecans. However, it was an expensive option with wages, plus over $2,000 in birdfrite pellets alone.”

Unfortunately with increasing loss of natural habitat Amos fears this problem will only get worse as the food sources for the birds are removed. Amos has been actively
lobbying the government to encourage the departments to be proactive in dealing with this problem and seeking compensation for farmers. He is concerned that the government bodies haven’t acted fast enough to implement programs that would minimise the devastation.

Amos shares, “In 1985, research was showing Carnaby numbers had declined by more than 50%. Despite this knowledge, they didn’t legislate or implement programs until 2000. They are sitting in their offices, developing plans, preparing research and glossy brochures, when they should have started replanting new food sources”.

I’m sure many farmers will be sympathetic to Amos’s concerns and agree we as a region need greater action to address this issue.