Sonoma Barn Owls and social tidbits…

September 28, 2019

Written by Ken Wornick

Backed by 20+ vintages and many dozens of wines produced, Ken is a Sonoma-based wine consultant and founder of Sonocaia Estate Vineyeards, Dysfunctional Family Winery and Hydeout Sonoma.

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Sonoma Barn Owls and social tidbits…we’ve lost many grapevines, three years in a row, to damaging gophers. The gopher population is out of whack. Hard to say why? Maybe not enough snakes? We don’t want to use poison or traps, so what’s the better option? Owls! (not interested in Owls? Scroll down for Sonoma social tidbits)

Owl box interior

A single owl can eat 155 gophers per year, equal to almost 55 pounds of gophers! Imagine what this family of barn owls will do?

Barn owl in flight

They are nocturnal, hunting mainly at night; this image captured a couple of stealthy killers in broad daylight.

Wildlife rescue truck

“Wildlife Rescue” from Sonoma County offers an owl box program. We hired them to build and install 3 new owl boxes on the ranch. They have a barn owl program tailored for almost any location – Click: Wildlife Rescue, Sonoma County, Barn Owl Program

Owl box 1 was installed overlooking the house and yard:

Owl box number 1 installed

Owl box 2 was installed overlooking the vineyard:

Owl box number 2 installed

Owl box 3 was installed overlooking the hay field:

Owl box number 3 installed

The official work shirt of Sonoma County BOMP – ‘Barn Owl Maintenance Program’ (shown here with famed owl box installer Mike McGuire).

Barn owl t-shirt

Mike is establishing the GPS location of each installed box:

Recording the GPS location of owl box number 2

And the resulting GPS records look like this. This data gets entered into a database back at the office. And then tracked along with all the other boxes around the County. Hoping the boxes get some new Owl occupants soon:

GPS co-ordinates of the 3 Hydeout Sonoma owl boxes

Recent socializing across the Sonoma Valley…

Vintage Festival – The Valley of the Moon “Vintage Festival” is running this weekend. Click on the video below to see a short clip from last night’s parade which is primarily a series of glow-in-the-dark floats from the Sonoma Valley schools. A great small town tradition…

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Video: Vintage Festival “Glow in the Dark” Parade

Harvest: Our first full crop of estate fruit was harvested on Monday. This fruit will be the basis of the ‘yet-to-be-named’ 100% Hydeout estate wine made of 87% Sagrantino, 6% Petite Sirah, 5% Cabernet, and 2% PrimitivoIt follows on the heels of its sister wine, the Dysfunctional Family Winery “Red Blend”.

Sagrantino harvest near the barn at Hydeout Sonoma 2019

2 tons of the estate fruit blend getting ready for the flatbed truck:

4 bins of Sagrantino from Hydeout Sonoma harvest 2019

Movie night: Hydeout Sonoma hosted 125 people to an outdoor movie event benefiting the ‘Sonoma International Film Festival’. The film festival is scheduled for next March 25th-29th, 2020. It is my very favorite event of the year in Sonoma; seeing films all day, meeting actors and directors and film buffs, enjoying great wine and food, parties at night, etc. Get tickets here:  Sonoma International Film Festival. And here’s a short clip of the film we screened on Friday night, Jonathan Demme’s “Stop Making Sense” by the Talking Heads:

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Video: Talking Heads at Hydeout Sonoma

Sonoma Parks: We attended the annual event benefiting the Jack London State Park, and honoring several major Sonoma luminaries, including entertainment and an incredible meal served by honoree and Chef, Ari Weiswasser, of the Glen Ellen Star:

Jack London Park cheerleaders

Diana Ferris, Cynthia Wornick, Basha Cohen, and Lynn Goodman (cocktails locked and loaded)

Video: Jack London State Park event

Closer to home: Cynthia Wornick is busy prepping ‘Early Girl’ tomatoes from the Hydeout gardens; her 13th batch of tomato sauce (much of which has been sent to the freezer where it will re-emerge during the winter as a delicious memory of the summer 2019)

Hydeout Sonoma tomatoes 2019

In the winery (part 1): Doing it the old fashion way, making sure a client’s precious fruit is carefully ‘macerated’ by the gentle action of human feet before the fermentation begins. Don’t laugh, this really is a great tried-and-true way to break up the grape skins (and release color and flavor) without breaking the grape seeds (which can release objectionable tannins into the wine). And yes, we washed my legs and feet thoroughly with citric acid. This approach works especially well for small quantities of fruit such as this half-ton bin of Sonoma Valley Syrah and Cabernet Franc (with a small proportion of very aromatic Muscat Canelli tossed in)..

The old way of stomping grapes

In the winery (Part 2): New York City clients with family and friends celebrating the 2019 harvest and tasting the 2018 from barrels…

New York City guests

Bad Company concert at Silverado: It was a surprisingly energetic hard-rocking show. Here are a couple of videos…

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Video: Bad Co.

Video: Shooting Star

Thanks for following these blog posts. Please let me hear from you…

Ken Wornick,



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    • Ken Wornick

      Thrilled to have you following our exploits in Sonoma. We think of you often, and our 20 years in Burlingame!


    Barn owls – added fun facts – an active box can chew up 20,000 rodents per year; Barn owls are not territorial with each other, so the three you have will work together to cover the ranch well; the sound they make is screech & scream like… no hoot hoot from these killers

    • Ken Wornick

      Quite correct Ranger Nick. The hoo-hoo sound are the horned owls, much larger and more aggressive. Barn owls are smaller and more agile.

  3. Lori

    We’ve been awaiting owls to take occupancy of our owl boxes for years. Any secrets to getting them to move in?
    Happy New Year!

    • Ken Wornick

      Lori –
      Turns out the best way to get owls into your boxes is to have other occupied boxes nearby. Why? Because parents tend to raise their babies in a box and then abandon that box for another nearby box – leaving the little ones in their own box. So in a way more boxes leads to more owls. But it can indeed take up to two years (or more) to get occupants.

  4. Tim and Gail Wilson

    Hey Ken and Cynthia, you guys look good, and owls are wonderful.. The harvest looks good, and good for you… life is good.. how’s mon and dad?

  5. les boschke

    hey Ken, Great info. any specific direct, height, size etc for an owl box?
    Joe D. and I are entering into new joint venture with a Carneros pinot noir vineyard, with his new tiny vineyards style winery. around the corner from my vineyard. today we just built a rolling & rotary barrel rack.

    see you in April. any Rain in sight?

    • Ken Wornick

      Les – Thank you, how did you end up on the old Owl blog post from the Random Topics post? Anyway, there are definite specs for Owl box installation. I could recite them here, but the best place to find all those details is with BOMP, the Barn Owl Maintenance Program here in Sonoma. See these two web pages: and
      Warmly. Ken


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