Archive for the ‘Nest check’ Category

Wing Entrapment CAN Happen to You!

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Once again wing entrapment has struck again. Every year (early in the season usually) I have to deal with martins that get stuck in SREH entrances. 2 ASY males, one stuck in the sreh and one within the nest. Unfortunately I was out all day visiting family, came home after dark and this AM this was what I found.

For those that don’t know, Wing Entrapment is when a purple martin becomes stuck in a SREH. It usually happens when 2 or more martins are fighting over a compartment (nest spot) of any gourd or house with SREH (Starling Resistant Entrance Hole) As one bird tries to leave the nest and is trying to fend off attacks from within the nest from a rival or occupant, the bird gets stuck in the entrance. Basically gets stuck when he turns as he is trying to exit. If not discovered fairly quickly the birds in the nest can die as can the stuck bird. I have wondered if vented rooms vs non vented rooms have a better survival time but this nest was fairly well vented. But still the blocking off of the entrance must have happened early in the AM and as I was out all day, there they sat and died. Those that have reported deaths from entrapment usually say that they discovered it either the same day or within a day or two of the event.

It is important to note that this Sunset Inn house did NOT have wing entrapment guards on the inside of the crescent entrances. Also there have been reports of wind entrapment on the large Trendsetter houses that DO HAVE wing entrapment guards. I am not sure if the problem is the thickness of the guard, as the Trendsetter entrapment guard is not the thickest I have seen There is no standard thickness for a guard also and it is hard to just say that thicker may be better, because we are not real sure if at some point, the thickness would hamper their entry and exit into the compartment or cause some kind of situation with young birds crowding at the entrance waiting to be fed.

You can read about wing entrapment in previous blog posts as well as on our parent website, www.PurpleMartins-R-Us.com. Is wing entrapment a reason to not use SREH? Absolutely not. Wing entrapment remains much less common than the threat of Starlings in an unprotected colony. Of course, you have to weigh the pros and cons in your colony along with your sites individual risk factors for both problems.

Snake Netting Making an Early Save!

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

20140303-135938.jpg
Snake netting is one of the cheapest, easiest, and most effective way to protect your purple Martin colony from the very real danger of snakes. Though it is early in the season, and the birds have just started nest building, a snake has already been caught in our snake netting.
Snake netting is really a product called bird netting. Available in the garden section of any home improvement store. Learn more by reading the following from a blog entry of ours from 2011.

How to Make Snake Netting to Protect Your Martins
Bluebird trails, Tree swallow boxes and purple martin landlords can all benefit from using snake netting (actually bird netting) on your poles. Snakes can climb up any pole and can even thwart many predator guards. Since no predator guard is 100% fool proof, this quick and easy tip can further decrease the chances of one of these critters from slinking their way up your martin pole.

Bird netting can be found at just about any garden center, home improvement center and is used to keep birds from eating the fruit and veggies in your garden. It can be found in either rolls or flat packaging, and comes in several sizes. We recommend using 2 sizes to protect against larger and smaller snakes. 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch.

The exact way to attach the netting to your poles is unimportant. The netting needs to be held out and away from the pole to both prevent ground predators from using the net to circumvent any other predator guards in place (such as a stovepipe type) and to make the snake go through the net rather than up and around it. Thus the exact way to layer the netting is a debatable issue. Many different techniques have been used successfully. The main idea is for it to be above your predator guard to serve as a last “hail Mary” of protection. The netting should be full and hang loosely. Think of a big fluffy skirt under your housing.

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!

Starlings and Fledgelings and Jumpers, OH MY!

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

So much news and I have really been negligent on the blog. My apologies but between helping customers of PurpleMartins-R-Us.com, 2 kids, a busy colony and a landscape project…I have been swamped!

Bad news is the BirdCam has turned out to be a huge disappointment this year. I invested more money and hired a “computer geek” who, in MY opinion, swindled me out of my money. I was very specific with what I wanted my streaming camera to be and instead ended up with what he felt was good enough. But enough said about that…

My landscaping project turned out pretty well. Nothing huge. Just redoing the front of the house which had become a snake haven. I moved 3 cubic yards of large egg rock (that’s about 3 tons worth) over the course of a week and achieved my goal of having the front be presentable. Many thanks to Lawrence over at http://www.butterfliesandwildlife.com/ who gave me some tips and ideas for the fountain. It is a disappearing fountain that recycles water as it flows down a stepped “mini river” of sorts. Though his is much more natural looking and longer, mine was created with basically stuff I already had laying around. A preformed pond liner, pond pump and hardware cloth. I only added the spitter from Lowes and the preformed stepped river portion was on CLEARANCE for $14! My husband admits it came out better than he thought it would. Of course, he is used to my projects…some of which turn out badly.
 


The purple martins are fledging all over the place. I think there are more youngsters flying about today than babies in nests. 2 skinny jumpers were found on the ground from a nest that I am sure the parents abandoned. Perhaps an Owl or Hawk got them. But I placed them in a low hanging gourd with youngsters in it. I could not lower the rack as so many nests were over 20 days old. For those that do not know, once nests are over 20 days old, babies can jump out during nest checks from fright. The PMCA recommends that you block off entrances to those nests that are over 2o days old…some say 22 days old by attaching a rag to a string then pulling out the rag once the housing is back up for a few minutes. Just wait 2 or 3 minutes for them to settle down and then pull the rag out. But since so most of my nest were over 20-24 days old, it just wasn’t possible. So I saw them begging and no one feeding them and watched helplessly until they jumped and gave them some Gatorade before sticking them in the new gourds. Remember, you can read about common purple martin emergencies and what to do at our store site PurpleMartins-R-Us.com.

Starlings took up residence in a flicker box located way to close to my house for the woodpeckers to be interested. But a pair of starlings did. Since no one else wanted the nest box, I let them nest and waited until they were incubating to catch them. I learned something very interesting about them. Once they decided to nest, I was hard pressed to see them both at the same time. They were very quiet, almost as if they knew that I was on to them. I did get a great pic of a starling nest. Very different from a martin nest. Of course, I could have pierced the eggs with a small sharp pin, addled (shook them VIGOROUSLY), or coated them with a thin coat of mineral oil, and let momma starling waste half a season.

Purple Martin Scouts

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Among one of the most dearly held false hoods regarding purple martins, is the one of the infamous “scouts”. Long to be believed as birds sent ahead to gather intelligence, that then return to tell their flock to start migration back North, scouts are really just the first returning birds. Scouts is still the term we use, for these first arrivers and they are always ASY (After Second Year) birds who are more experienced and familiar with the instinctual urge to fly back North to nest. The PMCA (Purple Martin Conservation Association) has the best online tracking tool for landlords that scout reportwant to know how far purple martins are from them. One can see this scout  map at http://www.purplemartin.org/scoutreport/ Another option is to Follow us  on TWITTER. We tweet all kinds of martin related info, pictures from our colony and more. You can also LIKE us on Facebook. Just look for PurpleMartins-R-Us and click “Like”.

Our colony has tons of eggs at a nest check yesterday and even 1 nest with 5 babies. They ranged in age from 3 days old to 1 day old and seem fat and healthy. I am sure these early nests will do well as the weather has been mild and even weekly rain. Though we aren’t getting as much rain as we should, we are not as dry as last year when we had big losses from a drought.

A quick note about our BirdCam. It is up. We do not, at this time, have sound and the nest cams are turned off, so that birds can nest. But it is the best we can do. Webcams are not our forte and this cam has been a huge expense for us. Not knowing what we are doing, we sought the help of PalmBeachGeek to get the one we have online. There is a limit to the number of people that can be watching the cams at any one time, so if it doesn’t work, keep trying. Also if it doesn’t work for you, send us a quick email letting us know what your problem is, what internet explorer you are using (Firefox, Internet Explorer,Chrome) and we will try to improve things as we work out the kinks.

More News on our Western Purple Martin Friends

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

The Nanaimo News Bulletin in BC Canada featured another article on our Western purple martins a few days ago. It’s hard to believe that the season is still winding down for our Canadian neighbors. As the final day of summer approaches, it’s almost a “last hurrah” of sorts for us here in the extreme Southern range of the Eastern species.

It is nice to hear that despite the poor weather they still managed to have a good year and some 585 pairs that managed to produce some 2,200 baby martins. 110 of those pairs within the Nanaimo area itself.

Of course you can read the entire article by clicking on the picture or visit www.georgiabasin.ca or www.saveourmartins.org.

Why Purple Martin Nestlings Jump

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Our last blog post touched on one of the reasons that purple martin nestlings jump prematurely out of their nests. Referred to as “jumpers” these youngsters are often doomed. The reason why I,  along with many other South Florida landlords, have seen a huge increase in jumpers this year over previous is our record breaking drought conditions. Dry weather means fewer bugs which means purple martins go hungry and nesting success plummets.

The main reasons that martin landlords encounter jumpers are: parasites, extreme heat and hunger. Drought, though not a specific reason, contributes to low food supply and hunger/malnourishment.

Parasites can torment young inside a nest. Though some have argued that nature should be allowed to take its course, the natural instinct of the Purple Martin (Progne subis, subspecies: subis) has been altered by man.  Before Native Americans created the tradition shift in martins, the nest sites of these birds were tree snags and they nested farther apart. You can read about some of the 1/4 tsp in nesthistory of martins at our parent site: PurpleMartins-R-Us.com. They were much like their West coast cousins, Progne subis, subspecies: hesperia and subspecies: arbicola. The shift not only affected were they nested (tree snags vs man made houses) but the way they nested, as it is believed they were not as colonial in their nesting. That is to say, they were spaced further apart and did not nest in such large groups. The groups of martins nesting in close proximity can create parasite population explosion. We counter this by periodic nest changes and/or the use of a small amount of Sevin. We have a great link to a video on how to do a nest change.

Extreme heat in a nest can  be challenging to combat but if not associated with drought or food shortages, are usually easy to remediate. By making sure all vents are open in nest compartments and gourds, air circulation can be increased which can help lower temps. Many artificial gourds have vents that can opened as an option. For example Troyer gourds have built in mini vent canopies that can be drilled open easily. We recommend drilling these open before the season but a cordless drill can open those up quickly. If those are too small or you want larger vents (more air circulation) than a 1/4 inch threaded PVC elbow (90 degrees) is perfect for the job. It can  be easily installed on any gourd or house for that matter to increase air flow. Just drill a hole large enough to thread the end in and caulk in place. Make sure it points down and, if you want, attach a small piece of screen to cover the opening to allow air in but keep wasps out. The picture shows a modified gourd with elbow in place at the highest point which will push out the hot air as it rises. Know that in Northern climates you may have to plug these vents inn the early spring in times of cold weather to keep your martins warm.

Other tricks folks employ:

Using a frozen gel pack placed in an empty compartment. A frozen bottle of water can be used also.

A secondary shade can also help. Placing a sunshade to keep the sun from beating down on the house surface can decrease temps.

-------photo by OakleyOriginals on Flickr

Even a misting system has been used by many with success. Just makes sure the water does not go into compartments which would lead to wet nests. Also the misters should only run intermittently in the hottest part of the day so that the water can dry off. The evaporation is what cools. Don’t let the misters run at night or continuously. Our Free Purple Martin House Plans page has instructions available on how to make a mister system for your martin houses.

Hunger is a difficult problem and the debate is heated on how much humans should intervene on this. Though supplemental feeding is often done in early spring cold snaps for returning adults, one should strongly weigh the consequences of feeding purple martin nestlings. Remember that if you have several nests that are doing poorly from lack of food, the parents are suffering also. If there is a long term problem, supplemental feeding is a very short term solution. Read our Emergencies page for first responder care of purple martins.

What other problems lead to Purple Martin nestling Jumpers? Let us know what you think.

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(c)2011 www.PurpleMartins-R-Us.com

Drought and Heat Takes a Heavy Toll

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Time after time, this season, I have received calls from landlords concerning dead purple martin nestlings. I myself have found several jumpers this season. Jumpers are nestlings that are far too young to fledge but jump out of their nests for whatever reason. Usually extreme heat, hunger or parasites are the culprits that lead a martin nestling to such a desperate act. I liken it to people trapped in a high rise that is ablaze. The victims jump to their death to escape the fire.

purple martin feederThis year South Florida is suffering from record drought conditions. In droughts flying bugs are significantly decreased leading to catastrophic food shortages. Nothing but rain can re-establish the equilibrium of the food chain. Since our weather is usually fair, our population of purple martins is not familiar with supplemental feedings. In some emergency situations like extreme cold, purple martins can be trained to accept food from an elevated tray or Bed & Breakfast type feeder. Unfortunately, when the weather is fair enough to fly and catch some bugs, the birds will just forage longer and farther from the nest. So training them to accept feedings is extremely difficult. To see a video of supplemental feeding of purple martins click here.

In the usual activity of a purple martin nest you will see some of the nestlings at the entrance waiting to be fed while others are sitting in the back of the nest resting. As the ones in front are continuously fed and get full they turn around and retreat to the back of the nest to sleep, digest and grow. The nestlings that were resting and digesting then get hungry again and come back to the front of the nest to take their place at the entrance to wait for a mouthful of bugs. The nestlings are in a continual carousel of being fed, keeping the parents busy feeding a nest full of an average of 5. But when the nestlings are not getting enough food then they all cluster at the front. So these “jumpers” can actually be accidentally pushed out by the jostling of the babies at the entrance for food.

Martin nestlings that jump due to starvation are usually doomed as the accompanying dehydration is far more deadly than the martin keelhunger. Since all purple martin nestlings water intake comes from the insects that the parents bring, in cases like this the jumpers are all very dehydrated. Not wanting to sound like a pessimist, there is not much that can be done. Feeding a dehydrated and malnourished nestling can cause it to just die faster. Looking at the jumper you can often see clues as to how well fed they are or are not. A pronounced keel (breast bone) shows lack of muscle development from chronic malnourishment. Dry, flaky skin is a sign of dehydration. A  wildlife rehabilitator would also look for signs such as skin turgor or “tenting” of the skin as a sign. Emergency injections under the skin would then be given BEFORE any feedings would be attempted. Water or other liquids can aspirate and kill birds quickly if given by mouth. This article on Hydration of Purple Martins can answer some questions and prevent more harm from being done while a rehabilitator is contacted. If their are other nestlings in the nest sometimes the weaker nestlings “jumping” can increase the survival rate of the nestlings left in the nest. If the jumpers can be hydrated then fed by a rehabilitator, they can often be reintroduced into the nest when the are approaching 21 days old before they fledge. Nest checks become increasingly important to know the age of the nestlings. As lowering housing may sometimes cause fledglings to prematurely fledge out of fright.

Though we provide housing for these wonderful birds, one can’t feel responsible for acts of nature such as drought. We help as best we can and give them a chance to survive. Next year they will return and hopefully with better weather conditions. We learn from our experiences and the next season will bring another chance at life.

Look out for our next entry on some of the other causes of “jumpers”.

(c) 2011 PurpleMartins-R-Us.com

Another Reason We Do Walk Unders!

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
In case you still wonder why walk unders are important, yesterday brought another valuable reason.
Walk unders are basically the PMCA’s recommended daily action that a purple martin landlord should take. Walking under and around your purple martin housing can spot problems and issues just not visible from the comfort of your favorite watching spot like your lawn chair.
We know that things like wing entrapment can be spotted and birds saved…like we spoke of in THIS blog post. But yesterday brought a blown off gourd cap to our attention. Last year we received a report of a Plastic gourd cap not staying on. Then I had the problem arise myself after adding Coroplast Gourd Cap Liners to my gourds. First, coroplast liners are great, don’t get me wrong. They eliminate light that can filter in a gourd from gourd access caps. But the thickness of the liners can make the caps not screw on tightly. How do you know when the cap isn’t on tight? When you tighten the cap it will get to a point then when you tighten it a bit more it becomes instantly loose. Like the cap hopping the threading on the gourd and the cap can then pop right off. I have tried tightening the caps right up to that “to tight” point and have found that it just doesn’t work. The cap will pop off and usually it will do it at the worst possible time.

A few days ago, a line of fierce thunderstorms blew through the area. I had done nest checks two days before and noticed this loose cap on a plastic gourd with a ASY pair of purple martins. 6 eggs lay inside and I wanted to raise the gourd rack back up so the birds could return to incubate, so I left the repairs for another day. I had a feeling it would be a problem and made a mental note to fix it at the next nest check. Unfortunately problems never wait. When I came home some 4 hours after the storm I did a walk under and saw that the cap which faces away from the house was gone. The cap was tucked under a line of bushes many yards away. I lowered the housing and did a quick easy fix with electrical tape and noticed the eggs were warm! Apparently mailmen aren’t the only ones that will persevere. Not snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…how does it go? Well, long story short she had hunkered down on those eggs and kept then safe and dry and warm. Now hopefully they will still all hatch. Read how to fix your loose gourd caps here.

Any quick fix tips for other issues on your purple martin housing? Feel free to share them here with us!

Psalms 84:3
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,

2010 Nest Check Final Results Are In!

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

The final tally is in and our numbers were up. We offered more compartments and had 3 late nests that ran our season into late July. We also offered 3 low hanging gourds on shepherds hooks that were less5 feet off the ground and all filled with both SY and ASYpairs.

Thankfully no purple martins needed to go to the rehabber but unfortunately the resident red shouldered hawk caught several fledglings.

Total Eggs Laid: 202

Total Eggs Hatched: 170

Total Young Fledged: 158

Plans for next year include the repair of the nest cam, another aluminum house to put up on our multi-purpose purple martin pole and whatever else I can dream up for next year.