Posts Tagged ‘hawks’

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

Perfect Storm

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Over a week of terrible weather due to the first named tropical system of hurricane season and a greedy Coopers Hawk has taken its toll on our colony. The hawk was coming several times a day. I witnessed him grabbing the sides of the houses and gourds and shaking them violently in order to try and flush out martins. He got 3 birds in one day that I witnessed. Of course, it could have been more than one Coopers…maybe a family of them for all I know. What I know for sure is that the large numbers of recently fledged martins are no longer being brought home at night and our numbers have plummeted drastically. There are about 4 nests being fed and night time is a much quieter affair. It is hard to say if the hawk has stopped coming by as often because there are less birds or there are less birds due to the hawk. I won’t take any credit in scaring the hawk off with our Scarecrow…but you never know.

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Nest Check, Hawk and a surprise!

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

I have had a busy day so without further adieu-the nest check!

Gourd #1- 5 eggs
Gourd #2- 5 eggs
Gourd #3- 4 twodayolds & one pipping egg
Gourd #5- 5 eggs
Gourd #6- 6 eggs
Gourd #7- 1 onedayold and 3 eggs
Gourd #8- 4 eggs
Gourd #9 -5 threedayolds
Gourd #10- 6 eggs
Gourd #11- 5 eggs (on nestcam-due to hatch 4/16!)
Gourd #12- 4 eggs

Gourd A- unable to find any eggs (previously had 1)
Gourd D- 1 egg               Gourd J- 2 eggs (had 1 egg on 4/7)

Excluder gourd -5 eggs

Natural horizontal gourd - 5 eggs

Sunset Inn compartment A – 6 eggs            Compartment F -4 eggs

AND the shepards hook gourd (located some 35 feet from the gourd racks about 5 feet off ground) with 2 eggs

For a grand total of 69 eggs and 10 young.


The Hawk

purplemartin attacking hawkAs usual, the red tailed hawk continues to make lazy attempts at catching one of the martins. I am not very good at raptor ID, so for all I know, it is a immature hawk practicing. The attacks always frighten and always send the martins up in a flurry of purple. He sat on the top of the purple martins favorite slash pine and was punished for his impudence! Martin after martin dove and harassed till he eventually flew off in disgust. He almost seemed embarrassed. Unfortunately, I am sure he will recover and visit again. Come fledge time, I am already making plans to sit out on a lawn chair and babysit. For today perhaps the hawks are busy chasing down mockingbird fledglings that keep finding their way into our garage…much to the chagrin of their parents.


The Surprise

close up eggI had a series of firsts for today. I witnessed my first pipping egg, which is simply put, an egg in the process of hatching. It is pretty amazing and very slow. The nestlings little beak is just visible through the small hole that it has pecked through the shell. The nestling will have to slowly chip at the egg, the entire circumference of the egg. Since this is the last egg in this nest, there is no danger of the shell becoming encapsulated. An encapsulated egg can cause the death of the nestling inside and should be watched for. During nest checks if portions of the shell remain in the nest, you should remove the pieces. These egg shells can fall over unhatched eggs and trap the nestlings inside-encapsulating them within.

My other first was 2 eggs discovered on a Shepard’s hook gourd. The first year I put up housing for purple martins, the first birds that landed on it were Tree Swallows. Now at the time, I did not know that the Tree swallows were only migrating through, as south Florida is a bit too far south for them. I put up the shepards hook as a “just in case”. I placed it about 35 feet from the purple martin housing and every year I get a male who claims it. Last year a pair built a nest but no eggs were ever laid in it. I think it was just an extra nest built by a pair that nested in one of the other gourds. This year appears to be different. I checked the shepards hook, more as a courtesy, not really expecting to find anything, and lo and behold!!! 2 shiny white eggs! The Shepard’s hook is not more than 5 feet in total height. It has an aluminum stovepipe predator guard, that I wax every year. And now it has 2 eggs! Time will tell if the eggs will be tended to. Perhaps they were just dumped there. A female needing to lay eggs but not having a mate, nest, or the inclination to tend to them. But there they are. I hope they will be OK. It does go to show how martins will overcome many “imperfect” site issues for the sake of being within the safety of a large colony. As most people will tell you that the ideal height for a purple martin nest is at LEAST 10 feet, 12-15 even better. So a 5 foot Shepard’s hook is a stretch.

As I did todays nest check I looked up at one point and saw well over 45 birds flying about. I was dumb-founded and I must say it was an impressive site. As always, my heart skipped a beat.

Blog contents and photos © 2009 S.Halpin/PurpleMartinArt.com

Jose’s Martins #1

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Jose greeted me today with a hearty “Hola!” and an invitation to have his Jell-o. He only likes the red Jell-o and he only gets the green. He tells me he has made several complaints-to no avail. I could tell him that hospitals and “homes” usually never give red Jell-o but I decide to nod my head in understanding. He finishes off his lunch and I wheel him to the courtyard.

I had many questions reeling in my head to ask him. About his martins, what brought him to Florida, his life in South America, his family or apparent lack there of. Today though, we will talk of Purple Martins. A subject free of any sadness or memories that can cause pain. He talks of his memories of hundreds of thousands of birds flying free and his spirits rise like they are lifted up by the martins themselves.

Jose was a handyman by trade. Odd jobs, car repairs, unlicensed electrical work was his forte. He laughed at my reaction to at least 4 stories of how he checked for current to electrical outlets and light sockets. I suppose whatever investment it would take to purchase a volt meter was out of the question. He would stick his finger in the socket. My disbelief is still quite strong even after his vehement and at length explanation on the difference between amps and watts and volts and I don’t even know! But on to the Purple Martins.

All his houses were handmade. He would use scrap wood and made great use of wooden pallets which he found in large quantities. Legally, I hope. The wood was rather thin and of poor quality but with a slathering of paint would last multiple seasons before needing repair or replacement. The rough wood was well liked by the martins. I showed him photos of my gourd rack and he snorted, “They look like Calabaza.” (A spanish pumpkin) I explained they were actually plastic and that brought another snort. He tried to explain his housing to me and the best I could understand is that they were 2 story square, flat roofed box type houses with no porches and round entrances. He did make the nests accessible but had a hands off approach. Usually 8 compartments per house and they were about 10 inches deep. He never used “plans” and would vary the housing depending on his whims. He estimated, at his height of “Land lording” he had about 100 pairs. “Puedia pero no queiria”, he explained. (I could have but didn’t want to) When referring to having more housing and Martins. The ‘explative’ Halcon’s (Hawks) made my life a misery, he recounted in Spanish. This was the only time when sadness entered our conversation. He told me of a season when he had fledgling’s taking to the air daily, only to be met with deadly talons and beak. His solution? “I went over into my neighbors yard one night and poisoned those trees…then I offered to cut them down over the winter for free. I was a big hero and everyone was happy.” The legalities didn’t seem to phase Jose or concern him in the least. I guess when you are 80-something you have worse things in your past to worry about than a few trees. “Susanita, can you find me help to the bathroom?”

Of course Jose…and I will see you soon.

No Vacancy March 26, 2008

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

How much longer can my good luck last? As a well trained pessimist (Thanks Mom) I know that at some point my good luck will turn. The martins are bold and noisy and oblivious to the threats in their neighborhood.  Approximately half a dozen birds were out past sunset again. The noise they made bickering for a place to sleep, though music to me, is like a dinner bell to the hawks that I know live nearby. I don’t know if it is a good thing but a pair of Red-shouldered hawks is nesting down the block-less than 1/4 mile away. Hopefully that will keep the more dangerous hawks, like Coopers and Sharpies, away. Whenever I am outside I  keep my eyes open for any hawks. The neighbors don’t know why I occasionally pound the fence with rocks but that’s OK. The martins may not know either-but it gets them up and in the air. Yeah, I know…I’m whacked.  

 I have been working on 2 more gourds and am waiting for the caulk to dry before I hang them. But for now the “No-Vacancy” sign is up. I am not sure how many birds I have turned away due to lack of room but I have counted upwards of 30 birds.

Blog Contents Copyrighted 2008: S.Halpin / www.PurpleMartins-R-Us.com