Many of the fields Duane farms have wooded edges, which support over-wintering birds that may help with pest control of the alfalfa weevil. A couple of fields hold easements specifically for the rare Swainson’s Hawks, which arrive in the summer.
With help from the Yolo RCD and Audubon California, Duane has reconfigured a steep, narrow, weedy, fast-moving slough that flows through one of his fields into a wider, more shallow waterway with native plants, providing better flood control and good cover for California Quail and pheasants.
Duane keeps track of the birds coming and going throughout the year. Cliff Swallow nests from last year hang on the garage next to his house, and he looks for their return every March.
As we drove by many of his fields, he told us of Great Blue Herons and many types of egrets and hawks feasting on the “moving lunch rack” in the summer, when a front wave of water sent down the checks in the alfalfa field will fill cracks in the soil, flushing out insects and mice.
Another part of Duane’s business is harvesting and selling wheat straw for racetrack horses, and rice straw for erosion control. The stores of wheat and rice straw often still have a bit of grain attracting rodents and the Barn Owls that eat them year-round.