Archive for the ‘birding’ Category

REVOLUTIONARY OWL DETERRANT

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

I am quite excited to try this at our colony this year as so far I have heard a GHO (Great Horned Owl) hooting in a wooded lot across the street. It makes my blood run cold since I know that once an owl discovers the plump morsels that reside within the large white “orbs” in my yard, my colony is as good as gone. NOTHING is more destructive to a colony that owl predation…maybe snakes…hawks are up there also. But owls are up there for sure.
Several years back, we introduced NiteGuards as an owl deterrent, but we heard reports of these not working as well as expected. Also, they were pretty ineffective once an owl already discovered the easy meals at a martin colony. We now have DANCING SCARE CROWS! Read this testimonial:

“I have had problems with Great Horned Owls every year since my colony started, because my colony is pretty remote…I set (The Dancing Man) up with a timer that turned on at 10pm and off at 6am. That was the end of my GHO problems. I looked outside constantly and never saw a sign of a Great Horned Owl. I was losing 2-3 martins every night until I started using the dancing man.” R. A., Pa.

We have also heard rave reviews from some great folks on Facebook like Paul Whodatnation Gremillion. We are working on making a version of this dancing man available on our website, but if you look around and you can get it cheaper, GO FOR IT!!! We plan on getting one ASAP! Just Google SKY DANCERS or AIRDANCERS. Try and get one with a weather resistant blower as some are not. Also some are sold WITHOUT the blower and that is not always clearly stated (on sites such as Amazon) so beware. Let us know your experiences!

Good Bye Natureline…(and good riddance)

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Well, I can’t say I am surprised to see them go. Around for ages, Natureline gourds have finally been discontinued. The company the produced these plastic gourds has gone out of business. Though the company is still technically “in” business until next Friday, there is no stock of any products, so for all intents and purposes, they are out of business already.

Natureline gourds were cutting age when they first came out in the late 1970′s (or was that early 80′s?) but compared to what is available now, Natureline gourds fell way behind the times due to failure to continue to integrate new ideas into their product. As a company that sells their product, I always told my customers of the drawbacks of Natureline gourds. Some of these drawbacks were quite significant. For example, the access port was actually the entrance which one was able to pull off to either access the gourd contents or to swap entrances. Sounds cool right? Sure, get martins started in a new colony with round holes, then switch to SREH to keep them safe from Starlings. Unfortunately, just as easy as it was for landlords to open the gourd, owls also were able to figure out how to open the gourds. Landlords were reporting finding the doors pulled off and martins gone. The “viewing port” on the side was utterly useless and was big enough for nothing really. The 2 piece construction invited leaks and though they were a large gourd, there are plenty of better gourds now available.  The Natureline line of gourd rack hubs was less popular but no less riddled with problems. The plastic connectors were reportedly easy to break and would crack within a season or two, dropping gourds on the ground.

Of course, I should not unfairly disparage the Natureline gourds. These gourds ultimately were a huge improvement over other plastic gourds which are ironically still on the market. Perhaps with a different name or manufacturer but still on the market nonetheless. These gourds are renowned among “true” purple martin enthusiasts, to be nothing short of an owl or hawk buffet line or purple martin death trap. These poor quality gourds are a testament to the martins will to live and reproduce, not to the qualities of the gourd themselves. Which is why we refuse to carry these gourds…they stink.

For those that still have Natureline gourds, we still have a very limited supply of Natureline replacement doors.

But alas, Natureline Gourds are gone. Making room for much superior gourds to continue to gain traction and help martin landlords host birds.

Unconventional Purple Martins

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

It seems like in today’s age of instant access to information that everywhere you look the same purple martin information is regurgitated at you. Not to say that the information is incorrect. The guidelines outlined by the PMCA and even our site, is generally the best information. But sometimes even the best advice is a long way off from the realities of a world full of variables.

What do we always preach? Housing should be 10 feet, 12 feet up…if not more. No trees within 30 feet. EVERYONE knows that!

I could go on, but you get the point. Purple martins are not always the most cooperative of guests. We build, we buy, we plan, we modify, and then modify some more and they taunt us. They refuse to comply with our pleading, and land on our housing to sing a little chortle then off they go…and we wait another season. But one thing that I have learned from purple martins is that their drive to nest is all encompassing. They may not decide on your housing, but they are nesting somewhere. Oftentimes where they decide to nest can be the biggest slap in the face.

Some people are surprised when they see some of the places that martins decide to nest. Sometimes where they decide to nest flies in the face of everything we teach.

So I introduce to you, the shepherd’s hook martins. I am not claiming exclusivity to this idea. Only a platform to showcase how some positive  factors can over-ride other negative factors. OR just maybe, how a tradition shift occurs.

 

SO, martins can be had in any number of ways. The best way still is to follow PMCA recomendtions (as we do at PurpleMartins-R-Us.com) lest you waste another season. Getting a purple martin to nest in something so against what is normal for them, is still very much a crap shoot. So save your time and follow the rules!

FYI

The purple martins showcased in these pictures were housed in gourds hanging off an assortment of shepherds hooks about 4-5 feet above the ground. Some had predator guards, some did not. All successfully fledged young except for 2 nests in the summer of 2012 which was exceptionally hard here due to drought conditions. The shepherd hook gourds were up from 2009 till 2013. We hung as little as 1 gourd (the first year) and as many as 6 gourds off these hooks. All were hung within 15 to 30 feet of a colony of 2 gourd racks and a MPP pole with 2 aluminum houses (a total of between 24 in 2009, to 44 compartments in 2013)

 

Season Having Ominous Start

Monday, February 24th, 2014

I hope this is simply a case of what my husband refers to as my “Glass Half Empty” tendencies BUT yesterdays joy about seeing the martins bringing in nest materiel has been dampened. While sitting at my desk a loud bang at the window got my up to investigate. Having heard bird strikes before, I looked down low outside the window. There, with wings sprawled open was a gorgeous ASY female with her eyes open. I ran out just in time to scare off a pair of hawks from withing feet of the martin. I suspect a young (fledgling) hawk was being instructed in his hunting technique and the martin hit the window in a desperate attempt to flee. After scaring them off, with the martin colony in hot pursuit, I turned to the female. She got up and flew (a tad bit unsteadily) off. I wish I could have caught her, to give her an hour of quiet and safe recovery. She obviously wanted none of my coddling.

Last year the end of our season was plagued by Coopers hawk attacks. Often 2,3, or 4 times a day, we saw Coopers hanging out in the trees at the edges of our property, hanging off gourds trying to flush out birds and nestlings, fly by attacks, and flying off with both adults and fledgling birds. I told myself that this season I would erect some sort of hardware cloth cage to protect the housing…but alas…that didn’t happen.

Though this photo shows what I wanted to do, my gourd racks have much smaller and lightweight brackets that would not support the weight of the wire.  Hmmm, it’s making me think!

 

(C)  2014 S.Halpin

Another Reason for Cats Indoors

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

I know I get a little “Soap Box-ish” when it comes to the American Bird Conservancy’s Cats Indoors campaign. This video is one of the reasons why. As a bird AND cat lover, I feel that I am 100% qualified to endorse ABC’s and the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (to name a couple) stand on domesticated cats being allowed to roam free. Check out this 32 second video to see why.

How Australia Deals With Invasive Birds!

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Wow, there is no denying it. Approve or disapprove, Melbourne Australia has a “No-Holds Barred”  approach to dealing with invasive/pest birds. This Pigeon Dummy Egg Nest works by encouraging the birds to lay eggs in the structure. Then at night, when the pigeons are asleep a worker access the nests to replace fertilized eggs with dummy eggs. The real eggs are promptly made into omelets.

It is reported that there is a similar program in New York City, but I wasn’t able to find a pic of that one.

In purple martin news, as of Dec 30, 2013, purple martins have arrived in Florida!

Motivation to Clean Those Purple Martin Houses

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

OK, I know how it is. After the first few years, after your martins leave, you kinda loose the excitement of cleaning out those dirty gourds and house compartments. I guess it is one of the less glamorous aspects of playing landlord to a couple hundred or so odd birds every year. Even though I know better, I find myself again putting off the dirty task. Heck, my birds will be headed back in only a couple of months! What is the big deal, you ask. I know for a fact that there are plenty of folk, good and decent folk, that don’t touch their purple martin houses or gourds from one year to the next. You may be one of those people. You watch from the sidelines and enjoy the view in the spring and come fall you walk away. Nothing wrong with that…unless you want to be taken over!!! Here is my lesson learned from last summer and the reason why I WILL finally get to my gourds this week. I promise!  The bees simply loved the gourds and made quite a nice hive. The paper wasps like to make a home in there also. The solution is simple. After cleaning out the gourds I just cover each gourd with a tall kitchen garbage bag and they sit clean and protected from all sorts of non-purple martin wildlife. You can take all the houses down if you have the garage space or you can plug the entrances with door shields or plugs. Beware, if you use door plugs, look for air vents that you may also have to plug that are large enough to let in creepy crawlies or stinging friends. And if I don’t…well, I deserve what I get!

Where To Not Place A Purple Martin House

Friday, June 28th, 2013

There are plenty of places to buy a purple Martin house. Now, with the explosion of the virtual world, one can decide to get a martin house and be shopping within minutes.
Unfortunately, most places that will sell you a Martin house have really no idea where they should be placed. Even buying a purple martin house in person won’t guarantee that the sales person knows anything about them. Thankfully we are not one of those places! We always have a Martin specialist ready to answer our customers questions.
Recently, while touring a nature preserve, we came upon several purple Martin houses. Terribly placed, I brought the bad placement of the houses to their attention and was told that the trees had encroached over several years. Also I was told they were aware of the poor placement and that they used the houses as an educational tool. That didn’t really make much sense to me, as the best tool would be a house full of martins. I doubt the houses are used as a, “Here is what you shouldn’t do…”
For those that have questions on where to place a Martin house, check out our articles at PurpleMartins-R-Us.com for full details. In a nut shell, a minimum of 40 feet from any trees is needed. I further instruct people that depending on the height of the tree, if you have (for example) a 60 foot tree, the housing should be at least that far from the said tree.

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Mockingbirds Make Five

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

As I was walking around the far end of our property, I happened across a small neat nest in a Cocoplum bush. The bush has grown quite tall and wild and is home to an occasional rabbit or two. The mockingbirds either didn’t notice me wander so close to their nest or they didn’t care. I have had mockers nest right outside our. Front door and it seems they have come to know me. They pretty much ignore me and go about their business knowing I will do them no harm. It’s a wonderful feeling to be trusted in that way by a wild animal. The nest only has 2 eggs so I am sure it is not a complete clutch. Perhaps in a couple of days I will see her starting to incubate.
These mockers are now the fifth species of bird to nest this year in our yard. First was our Screech Owls, then our Purple Martins returned (of course), then a Red-Bellied Woodpecker took up residence right outside our window, then a pair of Greater Crested Flycatchers took up house in the (now vacant) Screech Owl box.
Our yard has become quite the haven of late for all sorts of wildlife. The vanishing waterfall is a favorite of the mockers, doves and a multitude of Common Grackles for a drink and bathing. The sunflower feeder feeds the woodpeckers, cardinals, bluejays, grackles and occasional Red-Winged Blackbirds.

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Another Study Proves Environmental Harm Cats Cause

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

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A new study completed by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute proves yet again that free range cats cause a huge and devastating impact to birds and other wildlife. Between 7-20 BILLION small mammals and almost 4 BILLION birds each and every year in the continental US alone. While some might say, “Hay, sounds like Garfield is eating lots of mice!” Remember, those are not just mice and those mice are a valuable food source for owls, other raptors and othr animals in the food chain. Along with the facts that cats that are fed will kill more prey. Just something to consider. Read the article HERE..