Archive for May, 2009

What’s Up?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

The purple martin nestlings are beginning to fledge in the numbered gourd rack and I have suspended nest checks on that rack until probably Saturday. Come Monday there will be another 4 nests getting close to fledging, that I will again suspend nest checks. All this to avoid the dreaded premature fledge. I will do a partial check tomorrow on the house and the lettered gourd rack and I will try to move the camera so that you can see a new vantage point of the colony.

As my nests get ready to fledge this also means that the colony will get a lot busier with visiting martins from the surrounding area coming over for a visit. It should be fun to watch as the youngsters, still unsure with their landing technique try to land on the housing. It’s always worth a laugh. It also means that the time is drawing closer for the birds to begin gathering at their premigratory roosts. But I won’t let myself think of that. There are still plenty of babies yet to fledge.

For local readers of my blog, I hope I see you on Friday and Saturday at Folke Peterson Wildlife Center for their “Rescue Fest”. The center is trying to raise funds in this challenging economic times and is having a grand shindig for the family. Friday they will be having a silent auction, live music, comedians and Saturday will be the fun stuff for kids. All proceeds directly benefit the center and the animals that they care for. I will be giving a presentation on Purple Martins on Saturday at 1:00PM and hope to meet some of you in person.

Red Shouldered Hawk on the Prowl

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

The Red tailed hawk continues to make half hearted passes at the purple martins but I have yet to actually witness any kills. (knocking on wood frantically)  I have seen the hawk looking for the mockers nests and perched low in branches looking for snakes and what not. Today’s pass at where the mockers are nesting was too close for comfort. Though I do not think he actually found the nest, he was looking and the mockingbird parents were being brave, if not foolish in their attempts to distract the hawk. Pass after pass the mockingbirds dove his head, a small annoyance to the hawk. The hawks gaze was intense and though I am unsure if he actually saw the nest. It could be that he was not interested in eggs and is just keeping up to date with the happenings in the nest. Perhaps he will return when the nestlings are a more satisfying meal. If the neighborhood crow does not get there first.

The martins are doing well and today I saw Chimney Swifts for the first time. I have heard people describe them as flying cigars before, but today I realized what an apt and fitting description that really is. Almost as if the have no tail and wings fluttering faster than a martins, they twittered loudly. The martins flew about not as interested in the swifts as the swifts seemed interested with them. They stayed, flying about for about 3-4 minutes until finally flying off. Not a very attractive call, the twittering reminded me of the clicking of dolphins. But then again, compared to my beloved Purple Martins, no bird sings as sweet.

Last Check for a While

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

I did the last nest check yesterday that will be done for a while on the gourd rack that is on the birdcam/colonycam. The nestlings in gourd #9 are now 28 days old and they are looking like they could go at any time.  To prevent premature fledging after I lowered the rack (oh so quietly) I placed a sock in the gourd opening. I had tied a string to the sock so after the check was doen and the gourd rack raised up, I could gently pull on the string to remove the sock. All went well on the check and the babies looked wonderful. No bugs, fat and lean with hints of blue showing on their fresh new feathers. The next time I see them, in early 2010, they will be sun-bleached brown.  

There are at least 5 nests that seem to be abandoned. There are 3 scenarios I believe could be at play for this situation. It could be a case of egg dumping or it could be young inexperienced SY’s playing house or lastly, drought affecting food supply thus reducing clutch rates. Whatever the case may be, I have come to terms with my goal of reaching the magical 100 mark having to wait till next year.bottom view of S&K guard

No more snake attacks and the bird/snake netting along with the spray foam in the holes of the S&K predator pole guard will let me sleep at night. In the picture you can see the white dried foam coming out of the holes in the guard that allowed the snake to pass through. The foam is commonly found in hardware stores and a common brand name is “Great Stuff insulating foam sealant” or “Handi-foam”. It actually comes in handy for several things and I have heard of some folks using it to modify cheap plastic purple martin houses to increase the insulation and help keep internal temps comfortable. One thing I should mention to those considering an inexpensive purple martin house. Consider the amount of effort you will put into the house modifying it and the life expectancy of the house itself. If you expect to get more than a handful of seasons out of the house you may very well be overly optimistic. Sun and UV rays can change plastic and you may notice discoloration or loss of opacity and brittleness. Though some may disagree, more light means more heat and it is generally agreed upon that darker is better, when it comes to the interior of a purple martin house. The plastic can always be painted with a product like Fusion paint for plastic but again, now you are adding your time and money into the upkeep. My point? Always consider these factors when deciding what kind of Purple Martin house you want to buy. Want to read more about deciding on a purple martin house? Click here for an article on “what you will need” which talks about all the different types of housing, pros and cons to help you decide.

Nest check results for 5/1/09

Total eggs:  57       Total young:   59        Total nests:   26

Annie Get Your Gun-and return it!!!

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Good LORD! My days of shooting targets with my faithful M16 rifle in the U.S.Army are long gone. Heavy emphasis on LONG. I have been driving myself insane looking at the growing flock of European Starlings that are feeding on my lawn every single day.

 Morning, afternoon and evening they come for a bite. I put out my trap, not a look. I took aim with my old pellet handgun-a joke. I even tried with a slingshot…that is just dangerous in my hands. I could not even get close. So after listening to some good advice given on the Purple Martin Clubhouse forum, I go against the advice and go cheap. Who needs a >$300.00 pellet gun anyway?  I purchased a Remington 77 Airmaster from Walmart. At $75.00, how could I go wrong? I excitedly got it ready, attaching the scope, ready all instructions, popping out the screen on the starlings favorite side of the house. Then I proceeded to work my untoned triceps to the point of complete muscle fatigue. The instructions read pump at LEAST 3 times to 10 times. SO I stuck with 6 pumps. Unfortunately after the first pump my arms were shaking like a bowl of Jell-O. After the 20th or so, pellet I decided that this is a gun for the young and I didn’t feel so young anymore. At least not after pumping that thing up. Wow, was I sore! My arms could not be lifted higher than my waist. It took all my strength to lift the box back in my car to take it back to Walmart for a refund. So back to square one.

Did I then go with my fellow landlords experienced and fine advice? Heck no! I am a woman and a wife. What does a man know anyway? (just kidding) But unfortunately, no I did not listen. Instead I went to the brand new Dicks and browsed their selection of pellet rifles. They had several cheap models that I thought were somewhat equivalent to the Remington…but this time I was going to move up to something better. Right? Spend a little more, get something better. That was my plan. Just how much more though…hmmm.

 This time I purchased a Crossman G1 Extreme. Good weight, felt “substantial”, mega big cool scope. Made the Remington scope look like a Timex next to a Rolex. OK, so off I go. I had a little quickness to my step, my arms were beginning to feel alive again. Straight home to the window.

I was impressed at the break barrel pump which meant only one pump. I like that! No more gym membership included with purchase. One pump and shoot. OK, take aim, breath, exhale, squeeze…KAPOW!!! Good grief! Are you joking me? Did I mistakenly buy a real gun? My first reaction was to run to the restroom. My second reaction was to check the ceiling for the pellet, my next reaction? Pack that thing up and RUN, not walk, back to that store. Laughing all the way and secretly glad that I was not home, just in case the police come driving by looking for someone shooting a gun.

Next plan? Start saving my quarters.