Posts Tagged ‘nest’

Deep Thoughts

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

The Purple Martins were perching in the trees today. Making me wonder if they were deciding when to start picking off pine needles off the trees . No nest building. I still think it is a tad to early for that. It did seem interesting to see them in the trees though. Usually they make their perch the telephone pole at the edge of my property.

The Mocking bird was taking sticks to a large tangle of Brazilian pepper plants and malealuca saplings in my neighbors property. She must have gotten tired of all the noise in the Roebellini Palm off my pool deck (a safer spot for sure) but Mockers being the shy type, I understand her resistance. My 2 boys are quite the rowdy bunch and have taken to posing the local population of Anoles (lizards) in the most embarrasing of situations.

The cardinals are frequenting the black oil sunflower seeds in the cage feeder. I have noticed they enjoy a spot of grass that is where I throw out the unused seed and husks from my finches. The spot has sprouted quite a few greens and I am sure it is a tasty treat compared to the usual South Florida grasses and greens.

A few things have been pressing on my mind. One being the innate greed within people. In today’s economy one would think that greed equates to Wall Street bankers and Detroit Auto executives. Not necessarily so. Greed manifests itself in subtle yet just as subversive ways. People talk about the give and take in relationships. Casual acquaintances have natural ebb and flow of conversation. Friendships have a natural wax and waning of communication and support. But human “informational” parasites infest our everyday lives more than what we think.

The stereotypical supervisor who takes information from a coworker and claims it as his own. The self proclaimed fan who feigns true interest to leach off others fame. We all have had these situations either happen to us or have been witness to it. In this world of answers being a “Google” away, it is hard for some people to understand that other human beings are not a one stop shop for advice, information and trade secrets. An example of this was at the Festival I attended a few weeks ago. A gentleman stopped by my booth and began asking me questions about Purple Martins, which I will ALWAYS be happy to answer. Eventually the questions turned to who manufacturers some of the housing I sell. Specific information that made me wonder why he was so interested. To make a long story short this person was not interested in helping Purple Martins, definitely not interested in my fledgling business, and for sure not interested in making a purchase. He was in fact a store owner interested in selling some of the same products I sell. In essence, he wanted information to help him be my competition. I was amazed at his attitude when I declined to give him the phone number of the manufacturers. Almost as if it was his inalienable right to this information. All I could say to him was, “If I could figure it out, I am sure you will too. Good Luck.” In closing, I hope with this economic challenge we find ourselves in, we can find our better selves.

Blog Copyrighted  S.Halpin/

Raccoons in our Midst

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Putting up Bird Houses to some is a very benign act. It gives some a warm fuzzy feeling but beyond the act of putting up the house in the first place, there is not much thought regarding the matter. This is not me. When I (and many others) put up a Bird House, there is a sense of responsibility that takes over. Some may say that what ever happens to the birds once the house is put up is, “part of nature.” I respectfully disagree with that.

The true course of nature is altered the moment we put up a bird house. For example, the fact that we brought starlings and sparrows to North America was a huge act against nature. Nature, or living with nature, would not manifest itself by people cutting down tree snags for aesthetic purposes. So when one speaks of nature and its course being altered my thoughts are, I am an advocate for nature and the creatures that are put at a disadvantage due to our actions. When I put up a bird house it is my property and I will protect it as such. Now about those raccoons!

Raccoons are an amazing animal. Though wild, I am sure that had Native Americans wanted to domesticate it, they could have. Only Raccoons would serve no purpose. Wolves were domesticated to herd livestock. Their protective nature was a great advantage. Even cats that serve no functional purpose are useful for their companionship and affectionate nature. But Raccoons? I mean, they are cute with that little mask but other than stealing food, what do they do?  They are survivors and super adaptors. They prosper anywhere and are around in abundance. Think you don’t have raccoons around? You would be surprised.

Alas, raccoons are in my yard. Apparently my Eastern screech Owl has been the first victim of this masked maruader. On the grass, out by the Screech Owls nest box, I found an egg. Not a chicken egg either! My Screech Owl lifted it’s head up from its nest box to see what I was doing as I looked at the broken jewel of an egg. The little Owl dipped its head back down, away from view. To me, the act of eating eggs is the most disgusting thing I can think of. DO I eat eggs? Sure. But remember that eggs in the store are not fertile. This little egg was alive at one time with a small miracle growing inside it. Then along comes this thief and commits infanticide! Or with a bird is is nestlingacide? hmmmm. Whatever the name, it disgusts me. Now my thoughts travel to my Purple Martins and how safe are my birds with those vermin coons around?

My CUENT gourd rack has a 4″ section of PVC around it and my Sunset Inn house has a plastic “stovepipe” type of guard. Strange but now that I now the Raccoons are so close, I do not trust them. I am almost in a panic state. Thoughts of midnight raids and unspeakable Purple Martin tragedy sneak into my thoughts. Other than the predator guards; what can I do? Well, this is what I have “heard”.

1. Let my dog out often. (unfortunately, he is not much of a protector)

2.Keep ammonia soaked rags or moth balls around the perimeter of wherever I don’t want raccoons.

3.Think about installing motion activated lights.

4.Don’t leave the garbage cans/pet food outside.

5.Trap and call the Animal Control folks.

I’ll let you know what happens.

Blog Copyrighted: S.Halpin/

Lunch With Jose

Monday, August 18th, 2008

I left a message Saturday night with Jose. I told them to let him know I would be coming by Sunday for lunch. My youngest son and I went to a Cuban restaurant to pick up something nice for Jose. I picked up an assortment of pastries and croquettes and a couple of bottles of “Malta”. (It’s a soda type of beverage)

My son was a handful and all he wanted to do was run around. Having worked in a nursing home (10 years ago) I was totally freaked out by this. Doesn’t he KNOW what spills on these floors! Uh, no…he’s two…why would he know. OK, OK, so I couldn’t get Jose out to the patio fast enough. Jose looked the same. Lanky and happy to have someone to talk to. My son was fascinated with his wheelchair but soon took to playing in the grass while we talked. Between bites of food Jose told me little stories of his time in Brazil. I gather that his father was not around much. Apparently his job took him to some other town and he would return on weekends. He and his mother were close though.

I told Jose that I recently had taken all my Purple Martin housing down, as season is over. I asked him if he did the same. “Yes, for quite some time” he said, “But little by little the body gets lazy and the mind gets tired, then I started leaving it up. The rain was hard on the would, though. It was cheap wood.” Jose had told me on an earlier visit that he would use wooden pallets and take them apart to pirate the wood for Purple Martin houses. I asked if he pre-built nests for the Martins. “Oh sure, sure. I would use a lot of palm trees.” You mean pine trees? (Typical nests down here are made of pine straw) I asked. “No, Palm trees. I cut up the fronds after the tree drops them, like so.” He motioned with his fingers a distance of about 5 inches. “They like that alright. Sometimes, you know, they change it. Most times they like it fine. They add the leaves and I change out after they all done with the babies.” Wouldn’t the fronds get wet and soggy? I asked “Nah, its a bird. It’s no brain surgery. They like it fine.” I asked him what was the earliest that he would get the Purple Martins back and he said, “I always have everything up and ready before 3 Kings day.” (January 7-I think) “But they came earlier than that quite a few times. I think New Years one year was earliest…Sometime in 1968, or something. Long time ago. My mind gets tired you know.” With that he polished off his 8th croquette.

Protecting your Martins from SPARROWS

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

magic haloI have to always make sure that I am specific when I refer to English House Sparrows. There are several birds that look like HOSP (English HOuse SParrows) but are not. I will cover that subject on another thread!

There are several popular courses of action that can be taken to protect your martins (or Bluebirds or Tree Swallows) from HOSP. All of them are better than letting the HOSP successfully rear young. Let’s tread gently, as to not offend anyone. Many people have a problem (initially) when they think about euthanizing a bird to protect a bird. It may seem counter-productive at first.  Also keep in mind if you choose to use non lethal ways to control sparrows, you risk Sparrow Rage. A deadly behavior that HOSP exhibit when their breeding cycle is disrupted.

Lets talk about

1. Stop feeding cheap bird seed. What type of seed you offer should be dependent on your area and what kind of native birds you get. There are many options for bird food that natives prefer over the inexpensive seed mixes that contain large amount of millet (proso millet). Do not feed bread. Offer seeds like sunflower (black oil) or thistle, again depending on the natives. Woodpeckers love peanuts (whole). Trim the perches on your bird-feeders so that the HOSP can not perch on them (5/8 inch) but natives will. Use upside down feeders for birds like goldfinches.  There are also woodpecker specific feeders that encourage clinging and are very HOSP unfriendly. There is a device that can be used to deter HOSP from your feeders, like a “Magic Halo” see photo at top of page. Some people have reported that placing a bird feeder inside of an upside down bucket with the handle hanging down, will deter HOSP from entering up into the feeder. If all else fails, consider removing your feeders.

2. Do NOT allow a HOSP to nest in a nest box. Remember, every HOSP will kill a native bird, if it has an opportunity. There are several things you can do. These work very well if you do not have martins at your site yet.  Pull the nest material out as often as they fill it up. Do this daily, if need be. Plug the entrance until the HOSP find somewhere else.

3. TRAP, TRAP, TRAP! What you do with the sparrow is up to you. (It IS a free country) The best solution is to euthanize the HOSP. If you have issues with euthanizing some other non lethal approaches have been tried. After the sparrow is trapped, you can trim their wings. Its like a haircut. Not painful at all and will grow back. If you trim one wing the bird will usually fly down in a circle. Clipping both will usually make the bird able to navigate a bit better as it will have equal forces of thrust on both sides. Though achieving any altitude will be difficult. You can trim the tail feathers also. The purpose of the wing trimming is to focus the birds energy on survival rather than breeding. An important note is that relocating the HOSP is NOT an effective way to control them. Besides spending a ton of money on gas, the sparrows will return before you do. Besides, the relocating of your problem to another area may well spell death to a native bird in that area. Your initial conscience saving action will only lead to the death of countless other birds, other than the one you just spared. There are sparrow traps that use food as a bait. There are also several different sparrow traps that are put within the nest.

What is Sparrow Rage? Basically when the HOSP breeding attempts are interrupted the sparrow will enter other cavities and will destroy whatever eggs, young and adult birds he is able to. No one is exactly sure why they do this. As many other birds do not do this. We can only assume it has to do with decreasing competition for nesting sites and to better insure the next clutches survival. You can be assured that English House Sparrows will be actively causing destruction whether you witness it or not. There is no such thing as Martins and Sparrows “getting along” Your colony may achieve a temporary equilibrium where a few martins can raise some young along side with HOSP. BUT if sparrows were aggressively controlled the numbers of martins at your colony would increase substantially.

Always keep in mind, doing something is always better than doing nothing. Many people describe initial hesitance with euthanizing the HOSP but after they witness the destruction, many conclude that they have to be a bit more proactive and when they do, they are glad they did. These people will all attest to the increase of martins at their sites.

Coming soon: When you want to get SERIOUS about controlling HOSP and HOSP Identification
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June 24, 2008 Saying our Goodbyes

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

My last 3 babies of 2008. Such a quiet trio. You wouldn’t even know they were there. I often go out under the housing to see if I can see their beaks peeking out. The gourd they are in faces out towards the yard, away from the house, so it is hard to see whats going on. I listen and can sometimes hear them chirp only when momma martin is nearby. Sometimes I see the gourd shake slightly as they beat their wings frantically doing their pre-flight warm ups preparing them for flight. I am unsure as to how many remain in the gourd. I thought perhaps one had fledged but I can not be positive. I can not risk bringing the house down to check, as they are too close to fledging. 

The numbers continue to decrease. Only 15 or so martins at a maximum. The weather has NOT been cooperative. I keep talking about visiting the Davie roost but have yet to hear when the weather will break.

June 20, 2008 Feedback Wanted!

Friday, June 20th, 2008

I have been putting some thought into what this BLOG will cover during the “off” season. Some of my ideas are to cover a new Purple Martin topic every few days. Such as Starlings, sparrows, history of the martins and more. Sort of like a Purple Martin magazine or book in installments. Its an idea. If you have any topic ideas please let me know.

I know a lot of purple martin landlords are having problems this year with parasites and drought, so perhaps even BLOG entries on those issues.

Our weather has been very unstable. Beautiful in the AM hours then developing into violent thunderstorms with high winds in the late afternoon. Due to this I have been unable to visit the premigratory roost as yet. I am waiting for a favorable weather report to plan an outing to Davie as the roost is active for a few more weeks only.

On a Purplemartins-r-us update; I have been considering several ideas. One idea is changing our name to PurpleMartinArt vs PurpleMartins-R-us. It is a domain name I already own and would not disrupte or change the site in any way. Another idea is offering a limited selection on Swallow art and collectibles. Since Purple Martins ARE a type of swallow…Let me know what you think. I love hearing from all of you.

My 3 remaining nestlings are still in the nest and the mother is calling to them trying to lure them out. Feedings seem to have decreased. But then again, since there are only 3 in that nest and most of the other nests had 5 nestlings, I may be used to seeing them feed more often due to there being more mouths to feed. There is an abundance of dragonflies around. The visitors are still around daily during AM hours. Very quiet in the PM though. I only see the female and I have NOT seen her enter the gourd to sleep. She may be sleeping with the other martins at a nearby assembly site.

June 8, 2008

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

What a hot day. We were all out by the pool and my husband gave me a few minutes alone outside. He took the boys in to get ready for their nap. I was floating in the water looking up at the sky. About 8 of my birds were soaring and floating way up. Silently drifting around and around. Like Chinese paper kites. One following the other in a long lazy trail. Round and around…it was a serene and beautiful moment and I almost wished I could stay out there all day. Oh, no sunscreen! Ouch, time to get out and listen to screaming kids!

Gourd 8 is fast approaching fledge day. They are at the opening now. Peering out. It has a round opening and they seem so exposed. Next year I will do away with all round openings. I will try to use tunnels allot more also.

June 4, 2008

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Things are slowing down a bit. I did a nest check today. So far, this year, I have fledged 59 baby Purple Martins. There are 2 nests that remain with a total of 6 babies. One nest of 3 is about 8 days old and the other nest of 3 is about 14 days old. I will miss them when they are gone.  August to January is not too long of a wait. They will be back before I know it.

I wonder if Beau is doing well. I guess I will never know.

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May 27, 2008

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Total pandemonium! There is so much fighting going on that all I can do is laugh. No bird is really getting hurt but the birds that fledged in the last week are keeping all the parents still feeding nestlings, on their toes AND apparently, quite annoyed. The fledglings are finding it difficult to find their way back into the correct compartments. They seem intent on entering compartments that have nestlings inside. It really isn’t funny but all the yelling and screaming was so crazy…I guess that is all you can really do. It seems like quite a few are still returning to their old nest to sleep. Even some of the ASY birds are returning to the gourds that fledged the first batch of young.

The sight of them though at sunset is amazing. I see them swirl and turn like the waves of a tide. Up flying out of sheer joy of flight. Singing and chortling to one another. Chasing and playing, it utterly amazes me.

May 25, 2008

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

To all the people that have signed my guestbook at, I thank you. I got a ton of emails and questions from the article that came out in the local Newspaper. I wish all of you well and I will be in touch with you all again. My babies will need somewhere to nest in the coming years!

I did a nest check on the gourd rack today and it seems like my season is winding down. The last 14 fledgelings are still returning at sunset. But not all of them are sleeping in the housing. Right before the last birds turn in for the night a handful of birds fly to the north east. I presume to roost in trees. Several of the fledglings remain without their parents. I can tell because they are trying to sleep in a compartment that has nestlings and those parents are not too thrilled with the hitchhikers. Several beatings later they find other compartments to sleep in. There was one nest of 5 eggs that is due to hatch any-day and none have hatched yet. It is in the same gourd that had 6 abandoned eggs. I find it extremely unlikely that the gourd is cursed. No way that 2 different females in the same gourd were lost. So my new assumption is that the ASY male that has been protecting that gourd is sterile and his females are abandoning him. OK, I know that sounds a bit far fetched. Its either that OR I need to order some Holy water to take the Jinx off that gourd.

On another note. On this Memorial Day (As a former United States Army Reservist) I would like to extend a huge debt of gratitude to all the Active Duty, Reservist and Gaurdsmen who protect our Country now and in the past. I salute you and God Bless you!