For the Birds

We are more than just a winery. We’re also a farm–a farm that cares about its employees, community and environment. Below is our mission statement, a note from Rob, and a guest-blog from one of our employees, a biologist and our Organic Crop Manager, Brandyn Six, on our habitat effort and the bird species he’s recorded.

Mission Statement:

We will continue our family business in such a way that supports and enhances the next generation’s ability to provide agricultural products for the community which it serves.  To provide leadership in building a business based on sustainable and balanced operations.  To create a work environment that attracts the best and the brightest now and in the future.   To receive a fair return for our work.

We have been blessed by the opportunity to put water on the desert, which provides a unique ability to improve the environment for all types of native habitat, it literally allows us to expand the lush environment of the river’s edge to areas throughout our farm.  Improving the habitat is fundamentally aligned with every part of our mission statement.  We all enjoy the benefits, either through the direct interaction of the farm environment, or through the fruits of our teams labor. – Rob Mercer

When many people think of large-scale agricultural production they picture land that was once native wildlife habitat now twisted into circles and squares of crops without wildlife value. This is certainly not the case for most farms. Many farmers see the value in having wildlife areas on their farm, not only for the sake of having wildlife, but as an aid to their crop production.

Fields located next to swaths of native vegetation harbor native insects that predate other insects which cause severe damage to crops, provide wind cover, act as a pollinator buffer (especially valuable in tree fruit acres), and reduce weed seed encroaching. Aside from the production benefits to the farmer, wildlife habitat provides recreational practices such as hunting, fishing, and bird watching.

At our farm, Mercer Ranches, located 30 miles west of Paterson WA, there are 2,500 acres of managed wildlife habitat. Habitats include riparian zones dominated by willows, cottonwoods, native grasses and forbs. Upland habitat composed of healthy stands of Sagebrush, rabbit-brush, bitter-brush, and a suite of forbs and grasses. And semi-forested areas mainly composed of cottonwoods and some other high desert species including pines and junipers.

With these different habitat types, Mercer Ranches hosts an impressive 101 species of birds (downloadable excel sheet for those interested). This is more than many habitat areas managed by the state and federal agencies in Eastern Washington categorically for such purpose.

Riparian dependent species such as Mallard, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, American Widgeon, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Marsh Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Willow Flycatcher, and Lazuli Bunting all occupy these areas across Mercer Ranches. Many of these species are wetland or riparian obligate species meaning they only ever occupy these areas during their lifespan. With constant management and promotion of new healthy stands of native vegetation their numbers will increase and nesting success will follow suit.

Upland habitats on the farm: California Quail, Grey Partridge (Hungarian), Ringed-Neck Pheasant, Chukar, Lark Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Harris Sparrow, and a multitude of other upland bird species.

Game bird populations are generally healthy across the farm with good success in raising birds from young and releasing. Native grass and shrub plantings, occurring every fall on the farm, provide a food and shelter source for the young game birds and ample hunting habitat for recreation.

The semi-forested areas on the farm host a variety of species including upland birds, nesting waterfowl, and more forested dependent species such as the

Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Bullocks Orioles and Western Kingbirds are common nesters from year to year. They seem to occupy old desiccated cottonwoods or lush live trees with dead limbs.

All in all, Mercer Ranches harbors many more avian friends than meets the eye. With the continued stewardship of sustainable farming practices and responsible land management, Mercer Ranches will continue to be one of the best wildlife habitat farms in the Pacific Northwest.

Brandyn Six, Organic Crop Manager
Mercer Ranches

Photos found at Audubon, we suggest a visit to learn more about birds in your area, including listening to their songs. Photos from top down – Cinnamon Teal (a very striking marsh bird that’s only found in the west), Bullock’s Oriole (one of the flashiest visitors to the farm), Marsh Wren (adorable little bird that eats its weight in insects), Lazuli Bunting (pretty little bird that’s a great forager), Vesper Sparrow (tenacious hunter of insects and one of the prettiest sounding song birds on the farm).