Magpies could help stop rainbow lorikeets eating grapes at Hunter vineyards

Rainbow lorikeets have been known to cause havoc at Hunter vineyards, feeding on ripening grapes.

Another iconic Aussie bird could be drafted in to help with this problem, Charles Sturt University researchers say.

They’ve come up with a way to halve bird damage to grapes. At six vineyards in Victoria, they installed a dozen five-metre high wooden perches.

This attracted magpies, which scared off small grape-eating birds like lorikeets, newscientist.com.au reported.

Herald wine writer John Lewis told Topics that “magpies may hold an answer”.

John reported back in January that huge flocks of birds were taking their toll on the 2017 Hunter Valley wine harvest.

“At the Wandin Valley vineyard in Lovedale, rainbow lorikeets caused the loss of several tonnes of chardonnay grapes that were ready for picking,” the story said.

Wandin Valley winemaking consultant PJ Charteris also reported massive bird strikes on vineyards. He had never seen the nectar-loving rainbow lorikeets in such numbers before.

De Iuliis chief winemaker Michael De Iuliis said he had to pick chardonnay in a Lovedale Road vineyard at Keinbah early because it was being “hammered” by rainbow lorikeets.

Bruce Tyrrell said that crows, starlings and rainbow lorikeets had munched on grapes at his vineyards.

Vignerons had used netting to protect vines, but perhaps they should try perches.

Rebecca Peisley, of Charles Sturt University, said the perches installed in Victoria proved to be popular with magpies.

“Cameras attached to the platforms recorded almost 40,000 magpie visits to the 12 perches over four months,” she told the science website.

The magpies’ presence meant fewer grape-eating birds in the area.

Sections of the vineyard without perches suffered damage to 9 per cent of grapes, on average, compared to 4 per cent in sections with perches.

“I would definitely recommend the perches because with a very small investment, we saw a pretty good reduction in grape damage,” Peisley said.

A Yellow Submarine

We couldn’t help but notice a letter to the editor from New Lambton’s Ian Roach.

What was the meaning of the Beatles song Yellow Submarine?

What was the meaning of the Beatles song Yellow Submarine?

Ian was responding to a Herald article on Saturday that referenced the Beatles song, Yellow Submarine.

Ian said a neighbour, who came from Liverpool, once told him that yellow submarine was slang for an asylum for the insane. 

Topics had a squiz at the Urban Dictionary, which said a yellow submarine was a nickname for a “marijuana joint”.

Paul McCartney said of the song: “It's a happy place, that's all. You know, it was just... we were trying to write a children's song. That was the basic idea. And there's nothing more to be read into it than there is in the lyrics of any children's song”.

On another occasion, McCartney said:  “People say, ‘Yellow Submarine? What’s the significance? What’s behind it?’  Nothing! I knew it would get connotations, but it was just a children’s song.” 

Steve Turner wrote in his book, A Hard Day’s Write that: “The rumour quickly spread that the yellow submarine was a veiled reference to drugs. In New York, Nembutal capsules started to be known as ‘yellow submarines’. Paul denied the allegations.”

Music journalist Peter Doggett probably got it right when he said the song became a “kind of Rorschach test for radical minds”.

Aussies Overseas

We heard a story the other day about a Newcastle bloke at the Glastonbury music festival in the UK.

The bloke was wearing some sort of Knights paraphernalia, which sparked an excited reaction from a security guard at the festival.

This reminded us about the time we lived in England. We’re not really into rugby league, but we found ourselves looking for the scores from back home to help ease a bit of homesickness.

Then one night at a club in Cornwall, we heard a fellow Aussie’s voice at the bar. It was the sweetest thing we’d heard in some time.

We’d love to hear your stories of Aussies overseas – topics@theherald.com.au.

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