Archive for the ‘Daily reflections’ Category

It Takes All Types

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

I suppose, talking to avid purple martin lovers all day, I tend to forget that some folks hate birds. I am sure these are the same people that move next to a garbage dump and then complain about the smell. But it is what people do with that hatred that has me laughing today.

I received a call a couple of days ago, from what I assumed was a customer. The lady proceeded to tell me that it was not she but a neighbor that has “many” purple martins. She was calling from North Carolina (I am in Florida) to complain about her neighbors birds and how their chirping is keeping her and her husband up all night. I was confused…did she want to join in the purple martin madness and join her neighbor in hosting martins? I mean, geez, what would you be calling a retailer to complain (long distance) about something that you should walk next door to talk about? I liken it to me calling up Walmart to complain about my neighbors affinity for “Made in China” clothing. Are you kidding?

Well, I patiently and gently explained how the birds, having just returned and in overdrive breeding mode are very happy to be home and the males are so eager that they are often heard singing in their nests to their mates. I assured her that if they were the same as my birds, all would be quite within a week or two when eggs start getting laid. As the males move from Casanova mode to daddy mode, they will quiet down.

The lady expressed, “Yeah, I remember last year they did this too.”

I thought, “Glad you didn’t call me last year.”

Close Encounter of the Sandhill Kind

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

The area I live in is pretty rural and though my yard isn’t blessed with any wide variety of birds, I live within a short drive to several wetland conservation areas that are teaming with life. The houses that are closer to these areas get many visitors and some of those folks insist on feeding these glorious animals. I am not too crazy about it.

Baby Sandhill cranes are flightless for quite some time and the parents are not so bright. Every year there have been several chicks either hit by cars or mauled by dogs. My theory is let them stay wild and do not put food out for them.
Though this may sound odd coming from a person that puts up purple martin houses and gourds every year, I think that these Sandhill cranes do much better being afraid of us.

On this day 5 Sandhill cranes were just a few feet from the window of my car. I happened to have my camera and this is one of the shots I got. They were eating corn from a plate left out for them by well meaning humans. Remember, there are people that hunt Sandhill cranes. Why would we want them to trust us?

Tucking In My Martins

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

My favorite thing to do is tuck in my martins. I leave the children inside with my spouse, take a coffee (or some other beverage) out on the back patio, and enjoy the show. My purple martins, 35+ at this point, weave an invisible quilt of flight and song. An unseen drain swirls them in closer and tighter until they all swoosh into their gourds in a mad dash to escape one darkness for another.

Today a young male Starling made a home of the repeating nestbox trap. One starling down…200 Million to go.

Last night an American Kestral gave a half hearted attempt at what I can only assume was harassment. I could almost hear the martin laugh. Though speedy his attempt was awkward and clumsy and he flew off in disgust with himself. Maybe his eyes were bigger than his stomach as I am not sure what he would have done if he had caught a martin.

Stand Up Against TNR (Trap Neuter Release) of Cats

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

I found this awesome article by Rob Fergus, co-author of The Purple Martin that states the new aggressive stance against TNR programs by 10 conservation biologists in the latest issue of the journal Conservation Biology. Basically urging conservation biologists to take a strong stand against the establishment and maintenance of feral cat colonies (Trap-Neuter-Return (or Release) programs.
Read portions of the article HERE.

It is good to see conservationists finally sounding the trumpet and trying to take on some of these groups that cause more harm with their good intentions.

So what can you do to protect the birds in YOUR yard from cats while the politicians, PETA and others hack it out? Here are a few options.

cat trap

You can trap them yourself. Just minus the”Neuter and Release” part of the equation. Your neighbors may not appreciate you trapping “Fluffy”,  so this works better with feral cats. However nothing says keep your cat off my property better than a visit to the pound. The Collapsible Raccoon Trap is great for trapping cats.

You can discourage them from visiting your yard by making it cat unfriendly. Everyone knows that cats HATE water, so take advantage of that with this neighbor friendly alternative. The ScareCrow Motion Activated sprinkler shoots water out at the unsuspecting feline when the little darling decides to take a stroll through your herb garden to spread its Toxoplasmosis.

angry-dogYou can buy a dog that hates cats. So you may run into other problems like food and vet bills but still, it IS an option.

My Disclaimer: Please no hate mail. I actually am a cat lover…an indoor cat lover and my old cat “Elvis” was an indoor cat until the day he passed away at the age of 11. I just so happen to also be a bird lover and a conservationist. The definition of a Conservationist is “someone who works to protect the environment from destruction.” And I think studies have pretty much proved that the domestic cat is pretty destructive to wild NATIVE birds…ie: the environment. So thanks for your understanding.

Happy New Year and a Baby Gouldian Update

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

The new year came in with a cold spell that makes it easy to put off putting up my purple martin house and gourd rack. But up they must go. As of last check, there are 11 purple martin sightings across Florida and several here on the East coast. So today, despite the temperatures hovering in the 40′s, I was outside braving hypothermia to at least get things organized. The housing is still not up but the gourds are laying out on the grass and the racks are oiled and ready. Pine straw awaits patiently, having been lovingly raked up by my husband. And hopefully tomorrow will see most of the work done.

I can’t wait to see the skies above my house filled with swirling and twirling purple martins and my ears with their chortles and song.

handfed gould babyBy popular request I am updating those interested in the progress of the 3 baby gouldians that I hand fed. From hatching. All 3 are doing great. There was in fact 2 boys and 1 girl as I had thought and the youngest boy will still land on my finger and perch a bit before fluttering around the room. His name is baby and he along with his brother and sister will probably remain with me.
Though the other two will come up to me and occasionally play with my fingers they are pretty much back to being birds and have no interest in being petted or played with. As it should be, but still…Baby’s friendliness to me touches my heart and I find myself especially fond of him. His attempts at song are still quite pathetic and they are all undergoing a molt so we will see how they feather in. “Baby” will most likely be a “red headed normal” for any familiar with gouldian genetics but he will be split to white breast as will his sister. His brother is a dilute but otherwise the same.

The Three Amigo’s

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Gouldian Finch Update

I know this is a purple martin blog…but I want to announce that my 3 little baby gouldians have fledged. The work isn’t over and we are not out of the woods yet but it sure looks bright out!

They fly out to be fed and are still prone to flying behind the furniture but they come out when I call and seem to like landing on my head. THAT part I can do without but you try explaining that to those cute little faces.

As my boys say, “Awwww!”

What is a Blog?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Between my baby birds and visiting family, I am at my wits end. Last night I actually slept 4 hours straight. With family now gone I can relax a little and enjoy the 4 hour breaks in feedings during the night.
As for purple martins, my gourds are now clean and bagged up. The house is scrubbed and plugged. Only a few minor details left in the long overdue fall clean up.

I was talking to someone the other day and I was telling them why I write a blog. I guess it is important to first define a blog.

According to, A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. Your blog is whatever you want it to be.

And thus my blog is just that. Mainly, the daily comings and goings of my purple martin colony. In the off season I ramble, as I am now. About my observations, birding topics and other nature related commentaries. I never proclaim myself an expert on purple martins. On the contrary, according to my “About Me” page I state, “I am NOT a Purple Martin expert, nor am I a biologist, zoologist, or ornithologist. I am a mom, a registered nurse, blogger, a professional artist and a Purple Martin Landlord. I have some knowledge about Purple Martins and hope you gather some knowledge about them too.”

So my thanks to you for reading my humble opinions, observations and thoughts. Isn’t the internet great?

In a Purple Martin Drought, I Turn on the Sprinklers

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

There is no way to deny that Autumn is upon us. Some stores even are putting up Christmas decorations. Though we are in the midst of our yearly purple martin drought, I will artificially slake my thirst for purple martins. “How”, you may ask? The only way I know how…paint. I have been hard at work painting some new pieces. I hope you enjoy the first. Please pardon some of the color rendering, the scan does not do justice to the blue sky of the ends up looking white. Many watercolors can not be accurately captured and duplicated on the internet.

"Purple Martin Fledge Day"

I have been looking around the internet and found a great little nature blog called “Journals of an Amateur Naturalist” with plenty about the authors well managed purple martin colony. Check it out if you get a chance.

Where Did Purple Martins Get The Name “Martin”

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Today someone on the PMCA forum asked an interesting question that I thought some of you might find interesting.

How Did Martins Get Named Martins? I know there are other martin species, but does anyone know the origin of the name?

So I share…

“The term MARTIN is a proper name in French and derives from the the Latin “Mars,” the Roman God of War. The diminutive “ten” or “tin” is a pet name, leading to speculation that “little mars” refers to the first month of the yearly calendar-the warring season, when first so-called scouts arrive in the US.”
from The Purple Martin by Robin Doughty and Rob Fergus

On a personal note, I like to think of them as being quite “war-like” when they spot an intruder.

It’s Not About Your Cat, It’s About MY Birds!

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

Did you hear that? It is the sound of my soap box being pulled out of the closet and dusted off. I have been wanting to write about a very big pet peeve of mine for some time…so now that my birds are gone, here goes.

As a birder, it goes without saying that I am a conservationist. As a purple martin landlord, that just adds fuel to the fire and makes me even more pig headed when it comes to the house cat being outdoors. First off a few facts MUST be cleared up.

Fact #1 Cats are domesticated animals-not wild. Many people consider letting their cat room outside as an extension of the cats native environment. They consider it cruel to keep cats indoors. When actually the opposite is true. Cats were domesticated some 4,000 (four THOUSAND) years ago. They do not occur naturally anywhere. They have only been in North America since European Settlers arrived.

Fact#2 Cats hunt and kill whether or not they are hungry. Studies show that well fed cats actually kill MORE than feral cats. In other words they hunt for pleasure. The portion of the cats brain that is used to hunt is not the same part of the brain that registers hunger. Thus a cat will hunt even if it just ate a huge bowl of food. They hunt to kill, not necessarily to eat. Also neutering and spaying have no impact on a cats desire to hunt.

Fact#3 Studies have shown that Bells do not keep cats from killing. On the contrary bells may actually make cats more successful at hunting. Besides the fact that a bird does not necessarily associate the sound of a bell with danger, bells teach a cat how to hunt even more efficiently. The cat will learn how to move silently. And bells are of no help when a nest full of helpless nestlings is being stalked. Consider this product called the CatBib. Their website has a study that was conducted that shows an 81% decrease in the amount of BIRD KILLS! That is impressive. Unquestionably more effective than a bell this device allows the cat free movement, is soft, flexible and lightweight yet restricts a cats ability to stalk prey.

Fact#4 Cats kill HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of birds nationwide per year. That is no trivial number even though it is a low ball number. According to a post on that estimates over a BILLION birds are killed each year in the US alone. And looking at the math, that number may be conservative as well.

Follows is a sobering quote from :
The American Veterinary Medical Association estimate in 2007 there were 81,721,000 pet cats in the U.S.
According to Cat Fanciers, 43% of cat owners allow their pets to roam outside, that gives us: 35.1 million outdoor pet cats in the U.S. Add the number of feral and stray cats. numbers published by feral cat advocacy groups say there are between 60 to 100 million cats. Lets just take half that number say 81 million.

So that’s 81.7 million + 35.1 million = 116.8 million outdoor cats. More realistic might be a range of 95.1 to 135.1 million (based on possible feral range). But for arguments sake, lets just stick with 116.8 million cats for now.

How many birds killed by cats? According to a study in Michigan by Lepczyk et al, outdoor pet cats across an urban to rural gradient killed an average of .683 birds each week during the breeding season. If you can extrapolate that across the full year, that would be an average of 35.5 birds killed by each cat/each year. If you can use that figure for all outdoor cats, you get a calculation of 4.1 billion birds killed each year.

But maybe cats don’t kill birds at the same rate all year long, or at the same rate everywhere that they do in Michigan. But lets presume that the only kill birds during the breeding season (22 weeks in MI), that would still be 1.76 billion birds killed per year.

Another study in San Diego found each cat to kill an average of 15 birds per year (and 41 other small animals). If you multiply this number by the number of outdoor cats you get 1.75 billion birds killed per year. And that’s just in the U.S. and doesn’t take into account our migratory birds killed by cats in Canada or Latin America.”

Fact#5 Cats are responsible for the EXTINCTION of 33 bird species since the 1600′s. That is more bird species than any other cause, except habitat destruction. Currently there are dozens of seriously threatened birds that are still experiencing high levels of predation due to cats. Ground nesting birds, such as the Piping Plover, Least Tern and California Tern are even more at risk and several monitored nesting sites have been abandoned by these birds due to cats.

So you know all this data and you still feel it necessary to let your cat out. If that is the case, you are placing more value on your cats experiences outside than the animals that it will kill in its time outdoors.

If you think your cats rodent killing is a positive, think about this. Each mouse that a cat kills is decreasing the available food supply for native hawks, owls, snakes and other predator species.

If you believe TNR (Trap Neuter Release) programs work to decreasing the problems caused by feral cats, I urge you to visit TNR Reality Check. This site offers an eye opening reason why TNR programs are a huge dis-service to the community, environment and our birds. Most importantly it show why these TNR programs do NOT work.

So if bells don’t work, what can be done. The American Bird Conservancy runs a program called “Cats Indoors!” which I am a big supporter of. (I am available to give PowerPoint presentations of the “Cats Indoors!” programs to groups, BTW)

Don’t have a cat and want to make a difference? Re-Tweet this post and help inform birders and cat lovers alike.


Coleman, Temple and Craven  (1997). Facts on cats and wildlife: a conservation dilemma., USDA cooperative extension, University of Wisconsin.

TNR Reality Check

Winter, Linda and Wallace, George (2006) Impacts of Feral and Free-Ranging Cats on Bird Species of Conservation Concern