Such an Exciting Day!

My husband came home to an earful of stories. Beyond the good news of the nest check there were several interesting observations at our colony here at PurpleMartins-R-Us HQ.

Let me get the good news of the nest check out first.

Nest check for April 25, 2009

Total eggs:   66              Total young:   54               Total nests:    27

I am not sure if I will break the magical 100 mark but my birds are trying to comply with my wishes. What is the magical 100? Well, I don’t know if this applies to everyone. It may just be a perception in my mind of the number of fledged young that I am aiming to reach. It seems to me that 100 fledged young is the number that takes a small martin colony and turns it into something special. Super colony status? Probably not, but still…over 100 purple martin fledglings-to me- is a badge of honor. I look up to those landlords. Maybe because once you have reached that number your colony is faced with other problems that a smaller colony just does not have to deal with. The amount of time that a nest check takes, in itself is no small feat. Nevertheless, I am not sure that with the natural percentage of eggs to fledge I will make it.

On average about 75% of purple martin eggs that are laid will hatch and survive till fledging age. So statistically, my chances are slim. On a hopeful note, I did have an above average success rate last year of about 88%.

So on my way out to do the nest check, I see a Purple Martin flapping furiously at the entrance of  “K” Gourd. ( I have 2 Economy 12 Gourd racks so to distinguish the gourds and decrease my own confusion-the gourds on one rack are numbered the others are lettered) I take a pic and go out to the rack. At each step I am thinking she will see how close I am approaching and like all the other martins, will fly up sounding her displeasure. She does not. Not only does she not fly off, she looks down at me and then sticks her head back in the gourd to continue biting whom ever. OK, so now I know there is a real fight going on. I know she is not entrapped in the SREH entrance. So what is up? I start talking to her. “OK now, cut that out!” Eventually as I begin to remove the predator pole guard, she releases her hold and flies off. Once I start lowing the house, even with me talking quite loudly, several other birds fly out from this gourd and that and I quickly forget about the tussle and focus on the check. After all, I am curious as to how the rack is doing as egg laying had seemed to stall before the few days of heavy rain we had late last week.

I begin opening gourds and counting eggs and I hear a scratching noise. Uh oh, now what. I go over to gourd “K” and there is a beautiful SY male looking at me. Head out, body in..stuck. I open the access port to the Troyer gourd and reach in with one hand and gently push his head to try and determine how he is stuck. For such small birds it is really amazing how taut there little bodies are. One bigPurple Martin fight flying muscular machine. As light weight as they are, purple martin are compact, lean and strong. But wait…if I am feeling his wings then how can his head be out of the gourd? He would have to have a 4 inch neck? Slowly it dawns on me. He is not alone. Apparently another SY male is trying to force himself out at the same time and has the one martin pushed up and unable to get out. Apparently the female was trying to get this fellow out while the females mate was punishing him from the rear. A small amount of smeared blood on the inside portion of the gourd but all eyes are intact and no obvious injuries. Just his own wounded pride. I work them free and look them over. Overjoyed that I can hold these magnificent birds in my hands and grateful that I was there to break up the fight before any real damage occurred. I open one hand…then the next and they rise up to greet the sky. Crazy kids!

In an upcoming blog entry I will talk about issues one can have with SY males and the problems they can create.

And I didn’t even mention the hawk we saw! I will save that for tomorrow!

Nest check schedule: Mon 4/27 and Thurs. 4/30

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