Archive for March, 2011

Cats In The News

Monday, March 21st, 2011

I know it is a sore subject with many. And believe it or not. I AM a cat lover. I had a cat many years ago named Elvis. He was an adopted Siamese mix and he was awesome. An indoor cat, he was friendly and loved cuddling. So, I am not “out for cats” in a bad way. I am however, a bird lover and I realize that cats are not a natural predator. They are an introduced species…a domesticated animal…that occurs nowhere else in nature, except where man has put it. Cats kill whether or not they are hungry or full. They hunt for pleasure and they kill VAST numbers of birds.

The New York Times has just released an article highlighting a new study by The Journal of Ornithology. The study tracked baby catbirds in Washington State and found that cats, hands down, were not only responsible for the most bird deaths but were actually driving local populations of birds away.

The American Bird Conservancy has long been against feral cat colonies but cat people continue to argue that either the science behind the research is wrong or that the effects of habitat destruction far outweigh any damages that a cute cuddly cat can inflict. No one can deny the effects that habitat destruction has had on birds or any animal, for that matter. But consider that in your neighborhood, where habitat destruction has already happened. Natural habitats have given way to suburbia…now why is it OK to continue to stand by and let innocent birds die?

Read this article and please consider keeping your cat indoors. If you must let your cat out I strongly suggest using a product called CatBibs on all outdoor cats. You can order them from CatGoods.com

Purple Martin Nest Material

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

So what do you use to put in those martin houses and gourds? Many of the available choices that some folks may use work great, some are a bad idea.

Good

Typically the most commonly used prenest material is Pine Straw. Pine straw is just pine needles. It may differ in length and color depending on what kind of pine tree the needles are from but usually pine needles from Longleaf pine, Slash pine or White pine.

Leaves can also be quite water repellent. It really depends on the leaf. Oak are good. Small and flat they are safe.

Corn Fodder which is dried cut up corn stalks

Bad

Grass clippings are a bad choice. First, the grass absorbs water. This in itself is bad enough but then it can mat down and become compacted to the point where water will not easily penetrate. Making your gourd a pool of death.

cedar shavings, though easy to find at any petstore and quite cheap, are not a good choice. They absorb water and stay wet. If you ever use shavings in a cage for a rabbit or hamster, you know! Though I have used it in a pinch, you should try to avoid it.


Depending on what is around you will notice the martins at your site bringing many things to use as nest material. Long ornamental grasses, reeds, hay, even nails have been found in nests. Yes, I recently saw a photo of a martin nest that had over 100 long metal construction nails in the nest. What have you found or used in purple martin nests???

The most important thing to remember is that American’s have been altering the nature of purple martins for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years. Since martins have lost the instinct to nest in a natural cavity, we have a responsibility to care for these birds as part of our heritage as American’s…whether Native American, North American or United States of ‘American’.

Martins Starting to Bring in Nesting Material

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Finally, the martins are getting down to business. Though they may still be having minor squabbles on who lives where, the bringing in of nest material is a sure sign that nesting, egg laying and an onslaught of ASY purple martins are not to far away.

If you are a new purple martin landlord it is vital to play your purple martin dawnsong. Decoys should be up and though some folks report that the purple martins sometimes seem to attack decoys others don’t mind at all.

If you use artificial (plastic) purple martin gourds it is imperative that you place nesting materiel inside the gourds. The slick plastic can make it virtually impossible for the martin to exit the gourd which will leave them trapped inside. So for safety alone, placing nest materiel in the gourd is an important part of being prepared for the arrival of your martins. Of course an added bonus is that it keeps the gourd warm and ready for them when they arrive after a transcontinental migration. Purple martins won’t bring in nest materiel so they can have a warm comfy place to sleep but I am sure it is a welcome feeling for them when they do return.