Posts Tagged ‘birding’

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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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

Still No Vacancies

Monday, May 10th, 2010

SY birds are still looking for homes as I have noticed several birds tonight trying, in vane to be let into a gourd. One continues to sleep on the porch of the Sunset Inn martin house and a couple flew off into the dark. A SY female tried in vane to get into about 5 gourds which was not received well. Fighting and pecking and bickering ensued. The poor girl was determined and I am not sure where she ended up.

Though some SY males have succeeded in winning over a handful of gourds, all but 2 of my 31 gourds have eggs or babies.

I drive by several know locations of vacant purple martin housing and see no evidence of martins and know that just some minor tweaking of the location of the house is all that stands in the way of quite a few folks getting martins. After 2 seasons now of mailing fliers to neighborhood wannabe landlords, I have only heard back from a handful.

In the meantime, I continue to turn away purple martins into the night. I could put up another rack next year but I would much rather show a few how to turn their empty martin houses into active colonies.

Other bird news brings 2 fledgling Mockingbirds fluttering about the yard, a family of Common Grackles that I am not sure where they are nesting and a recently fledged Red Tailed hawk being shown the gourd racks this morning by its mother. Sadly a pair of Greater Crested Flycatchers is nowhere to be seen after they started nesting in the recently vacated Screech Owl box. I believe a Horned Owl returned to the box as I found a large Owl feather clinging to the front of the nest box the same day the Flycatchers disappeared. Now to fashion Owl guards for that nest box.

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?

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.

100% Starling PROOF Entrance Hole?

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

Going from Starling Resistant to Starling Proof

The Jury Is Out

Is it really possible? I saw the ad for this entrance hole in an issue of “Feathers and Friends” and I was immediately interested. An entrance hole that touts itself as 100% starling proof is a pretty amazing discovery…if true.

As you may know, the advent of the original Starling RESISTANT Entrance Hole (SREH) by the late Charles McEwen was revolutionary for purple martin landlords. The fact that purple martins could be protected from the destructive European Starlings was a huge development. Some purple martin house manufacturers went so far as to make these SREH standard equipment on their houses and countless martins are now, for the most part, safe from these pests.

Almost immediately after the SREH was placed into use, it seems that the search for the elusive, perfect and 100% Starling Proof entrance was on. Many landlords have been actively developing different entrance shapes trying to keep out the occasional smaller sized starlings. Some folks have even hypothesized that in using SREH, that we are in essence been breeding down the size of starlings. If that happens the purple martins will have no protection from these invasive birds that are choking out our native cavity nesting birds.

The immediate benefits of SREH still outweigh any other risks involved. (Risks such as wing entrapment can be serious and deadly- read about wing entrapment HERE. Consider that European starlings are even displacing red bellied woodpeckers in order to take over the nesting cavity. Countless woodpeckers are now being forced to excavate several cavities and nest later in the season in order to deflect the pressure of the starlings. Late clutches are usually not as productive. So not only are the secondary cavity nesters in peril but the primary excavators are also at risk. Habitat loss due to urban sprawl and deforestation, in time the starlings will impact  woodpecker populations. It would seem that would decrease the amount of natural nest cavities available to secondary cavity nesters such as flycatchers, screech owls and even wood ducks, just to name a few. Human supplied bird boxes or nest boxes will become even more vital in saving our native birds. Perhaps then more emphasis be placed on active control and even local eradication of European Starlings.

Back to the question of this “100% starling proof” entrance. We will have to wait for those of you that use it to let the rest of you know. I do not have a heavy starling area but I may very well get a few of these just out of curiosity. In appearance it is very similar to the Clubhouse entrance (or Conley #2) only more narrow. The Clubhouse entrance is the SREH on the current Troyer Horizontal gourds and was named after the Purple Martin “Clubhouse” forumites that developed it.

For purchasing information contact “Nature Unlimited” at (260)593-2624 ext 1. This is an Amish run country store so a voice mail should be left and they will call you back. Entrance plates are $1.95 each and are 4 -1/2 inches x 3 -1/4 inches. PLEASE let me know if they work for you.

The American Bird Conservation Association / Feathers and Friends can be contacted via phone at (260) 768-8095 x:5 Subscription rates are  $18 for 1 year. Tell them Susan from PurpleMartins-R-Us sent you!

BIRDING COMES TO THE SMALL SCREEN

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Finally Adventure Birding comes to the small screen…After a successful season premiere on 2 well-known local networks, Birding Adventures TV will now be available in most TV households across the US!

Hosted by professional wildlife and birding guide, James Currie, BATV is a unique blend of adventure and information, making birdwatching refreshing, contemporary, interesting and exciting. The show has a strong conservation emphasis and highlights the importance and urgency of preserving the planet’s incredible birdlife. Featuring the quest for a rare Golden Bird each week, James is joined by birding and conservation experts from around the globe.

The first show on July 18th 2009 features the ocean wildlife of the Californian coast and the most range-restricted North American endemic bird, The Island Scrub-jay. Show 2 on the 25th July features the search for the critically endangered Sun Parakeet in Guyana. BATV will be carried every Saturday morning Prime-time from 7.30-8.00 am local time by the following Fox Sports Networks:

FS Arizona (Dish 415; Direct TV HD686)

FS Detroit (Dish 430, 5430; Direct TV 636, HD663)

FS Florida (Dish 423, 5423; Direct TV HD654)

FS Midwest (Dish 418, 5418; Direct TV HD671)

FS North (Dish 436; Direct TV HD668)

FS Ohio (Dish 425; Direct TV HD660)

FS South (Dish 420; Direct TV HD646)

FS Southwest (Dish 416, 5416; Direct TV HD676)

FS West (Dish 417; Direct TV HD692)

FS Wisconsin (Dish 436; Direct TV 669)

Other Fox Networks and affiliates have also picked up the show go to

www.locatetv.com or http://areyouwatchingthis.com/tv/programs/SH011093200000-Birding-Adventures/18015786 to find BATV in your area. Check your local cable provider channels for cable listings.

www.untamedsportstv.com) at the following days and times:

www.BirdingAdventures.com or email info@birdingadventures.com

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 Windstar.org 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 www.Windstar.org :
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.


Sources:

Coleman, Temple and Craven  (1997). Facts on cats and wildlife: a conservation dilemma., USDA cooperative extension, University of Wisconsin. http://www.cnr.vt.edu/extension/fiw/wildlife/damage/Cats.pdf

TNR Reality Check

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

One Missing of Last Nest of Five

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

My husband was outside hollering at me as I lowered the gourd rack. Thunder was cracking and the sky was way to volatile to be messing with the purple martins. But I had just gotten home with a few dozen crickets and the Nestcam was not very reassuring. It seemed like something was not quite right.

For those of you unaware of the current drama. The last nest of the season and the 5 nestlings within (now at 26 days old) have been suffering from diminished parental care. The ASY male curiously has been around on and off during the day but with no meal to offer the nestlings. The SY female also has been circling and feeding high above watchful but also not feeding the young. Last Saturday I took the skinniest of the lot (including a runt) to the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. A few feedings and bolus of fluids given later, they were perky and I put them back in the nest. Today I could not watch anymore. So down the rack came.

I had left the rack only halfway down and placed a net bag over the opening so that no birds could fly out while I lowered. When I opened the Troyer gourd only 4 nestlings were inside. In a mad rush I fed the 2 skinniest but am unsure if the runt had caught up or if one of the older more vigorous siblings fledged at some point today.

Back to my husband hollering at me, “Do you want to get struck by lightening?” Came in between thunder  claps. My hair wet as a slow drizzle had begun to fall. In a rush I raised the rack back up and after putting everything away I pulled the sock on a string that held the nestlings within. They stayed put and mom and dad circled.

The thin keel bone of the skinniest nestling is disturbing to me and I should have kept him out and fed him over the course of the remainder of the day and tomorrow.