Bird busters shoo men­ace from trac­tors

Birds are a pain for farm­ers, caus­ing fires in trac­tors and mak­ing a mess in sheds. In a re­port from the Manawatu Stan­dard Bird Buster de­signer Bryan Bate has a way to com­bat the prob­lem

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY -

Birds look for a warm spot out of the weather to build their nests, so they tar­get trac­tors and sheds as that spe­cial place to raise a brood. That’s a big prob­lem for farm­ers, who have to deal with the mess in sheds and the risk of trac­tors catch­ing on fire.

En­ter Bryan Bate and his Bird Scarer, which is ba­si­cally a loud alarm that hits some high deci­bels, an elec­tronic box with a power adap­tor, alarm sys­tem, wires and speak­ers/sirens.

Ex­tra speak­ers can be at­tached for large shed cov­er­age. Mr Bate de­signer, owner, mar­keter, man­u­fac­turer and of­fice boy of his prod- uct works out of an of­fice and work­shop in Palmer­ston North.

He sells alarm sys­tems to farm­ers from North­land to South­land. The hot spots are Can­ter­bury, Waikato, Poverty Bay and Manawatu but there are plenty of other ar­eas where sales have been made too. And the of­fend­ers? ‘‘Star­lings and black­birds are the worst, then there are spar­rows and swal­lows.’’

The birds could start build­ing a nest in a warm trac­tor en­gine in the hour the farmer or con­trac­tor might take off for lunch. There could be enough straw and dry grass to start a fire when the trac- tor was started again, said Mr Bate.

‘‘It is a big deal. In­surance com­pa­nies had 59 burn-outs of trac­tors in Oc­to­ber last year. A trac­tor can be be­tween $60,000 and $200,000. One that burned out was only two weeks old.’’

Au­di­ble bird scar­ers work on a ran­dom ro­ta­tion. Mr Bate says they will go for three sec­onds, then there is a six-sec­ond de­lay, then an­other three-sec­ond burst. Af­ter that they are on a 14-minute sys­tem in which the alarm sounds.

‘‘The ran­dom­ness is the key to bird scar­ers work­ing. Birds get used to a pat­tern oth­er­wise.’’

Birds hate the noise. It is not so nice for peo­ple ei­ther but Mr Bate said the alarms were less pierc­ing out­side or in an im­ple­ment shed. They sounded as loud as 120 deci­bels. ‘‘No bird would stand that.’’ They could be turned off eas­ily when any­one was work­ing in the shed. The alarms on trac­tors were less noisy and worked off volt­age. As soon as the trac­tor was turned on and work­ing, the alarm sys­tem stopped. It started of its own ac­cord when the trac­tor was turned off.

‘ ‘ I started be­cause both my broth­ers-in-law are farm­ers. I was go­ing to China and asked what would be the key thing to look for. In uni­son, they said some­thing to stop birds caus­ing prob­lems.’’

Mr Bate said there were alarm sys­tems in the United States but they were su­per-sonic and af­fected other an­i­mals.

It got the for­mer me­chanic and used car sales­man think­ing about what kind of sys­tem could work in New Zealand. He de­cided he had the where­withal to make one.

‘‘I work with a Ger­man guy who lives in the bush. He does the elec­tronic boards and I do ev­ery­thing else. I get the speak­ers/ sirens from Tai­wan but put ev­ery­thing to­gether here.’’

Mr Bate puts an elec­tronic board in a bird de­ter­rent alarm box. He adds the speak­ers, the power adap­tor and the wires, which are long enough to put the sirens up in the corner of an im­ple­ment shed. All of that goes into a box, ready for sale.

‘‘I sell pri­vately and most of the big ru­ral com­pa­nies have been in touch and also sell the bird de­ter­rent sys­tems.’’

Mr Bate said he was also talk­ing to in­surance com­pa­nies in the hope that trac­tors with de­ter­rent alarms might at­tract lower premi­ums, ‘ ‘ as some in­surance com­pa­nies did with house alarms. It might be that sort of idea. You pay a lower pre­mium’’.

He has bird de­ter­rent sys­tems for trac­tors and sheds. ‘‘Im­ple­ment sheds, cow sheds, wool­sheds all those places that farm­ers want to keep bird nests out of. I also do sys­tems that peo­ple put in boats and pri­vate air­craft and hangars.

‘ ‘ Some boats out at moor­ings also have bird scar­ers, which work at keep­ing the seag­ulls and shags off the boat.’’

Mr Bate said he had bird­scar­ing sys­tems for vine­yards in the pipe­line but there was six months of test­ing be­fore that might be a goer. Then there is the prob­lem of birds at air­ports, in parks, on sports grounds the list goes on. There has al­ready been some in­ter­est in the sys­tem from Eden Park.

‘‘I am do­ing it all my­self and just meet­ing de­mand. ‘ ‘ If it grows, I’ll have to em­ploy some­one.’’

Mr Bate is proud of the New Zealand-made bird scarer. He said he felt very re­spon­si­ble for get­ting it right. Mr Bate has been in the busi­ness of stop­ping nest build­ing for two years. The first six months to a year were all about test­ing the sys­tem to see what worked.

‘‘It has been a work-in­progress since I started. You never stop learn­ing. ‘‘The ran­dom­ness fac­tor is new. But I still have peo­ple who want the old, three­sec­ond au­di­ble alarm, ev­ery 20 min­utes.’’

That was Mr Bate’s first bird scar­ing sys­tem, and it still works.

‘‘Plac­ing the sirens in the shed is im­por­tant. We want them in the front cor­ners, go­ing back into the shed.

‘‘If a shed was 100 me­tres from the house, then the sound wouldn’t worry you.’’

He says he is ad­ver­tis­ing in a farm­ing mag­a­zine once a month, and the suc­cess of the de­ter­rent alarm sys­tem is mainly from word of mouth. ‘‘I do go the Cen­tral District Field Days in Feild­ing, and the Na­tional Agri­cul­tural Fiel­d­ays at Hamil­ton, and there has been enor­mous in­ter­est and sales, which have re­sulted from that.’’

He says such was the de­mand, he ran out of stock at the Mys­tery Creek Fiel­d­ays this year. Mr Bate paid ‘‘a rea­son­able amount of money’ to have the de­ter­rent sys­tem patented. He was en­cour­aged to do so by many peo­ple, in­clud­ing a lawyer who has a farm block.

There has also been in­ter­na­tional in­ter­est in his bird de­ter­rent sys­tem but Mr Bate said he was mak­ing the bird scarer for the New Zealand mar­ket.

Long term, he doubted he would be able to keep up with de­mand and be­lieved an op­tion might be for some larger com­pany to buy him out. ‘‘Okay, if some­one buys the con­cept, I can go fish­ing.’’

Photo: MANAWATU STAN­DARD.

BIRD BOTHER: Bryan Bate shows off his Bird Buster de­vice.

Photo: FAIR­FAX FILE

624128205 UN­WANTED: Star­lings are among the species Bryan Bate is tar­get­ing.

Photo: MANAWATU STAN­DARD.

CON­SE­QUENCE: A burnt out trac­tor af­ter a bird in the en­gine started a fire.

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