Posts Tagged ‘nestcheck’

Better Late Than Never – First Nestcheck 2010

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

I am embarrassed to admit how late I am doing my first nest check. It is just a shame. I will use this experience to prove that you can still have a life and be a purple martin landlord. Since many that are not stricken with this purple fever seem to think that those of us who are…are quite insane.

On Saturday April the 17th, I checked 35 compartments out of 37 and have a grand total of…(drum roll) 153 eggs! Most nests had 6 eggs with some having 5 or less and  a couple having 7 eggs. I worked fast as many are already incubating so I have NO idea when some of these will be hatching. I know, that is bad.

It is always a good idea to check on nests around hatch time to check for capped eggs. A capped egg is when the partial shell from a hatched chick falls over top of an unhatched egg and traps the chick inside. Entombed within 2 shells the baby is unable to peck its way out and dies. By doing nest checks around hatch time, empty shell pieces can be removed and capped eggs discovered in time to save the little life inside.

One Nest To Go-But Where is Mom & Dad?

Friday, July 10th, 2009

The last remaining nest is on the numbered gourd rack. Gourd #6 has 5 nestlings that I have neglected terribly. I had watched the ASY male and SY female feeding vigorously  3days ago. Yesterday I saw no feeding but the racks have been covered with purple martins for the entire morning and well into the afternoon. I was sure that I just missed them. Today I saw two little heads poking out of the front of the Troyer horizontal gourd. I was sure that the nest had been hijacked by a lazy fledgling as the two heads looked so vastly different in ages. So I lowered the rack.

When I opened the gourd I noticed it was pretty dirty, but I had seen worse. I proceeded to take everyone out and put them in the 5 gallon bucket to do a nest change. When I looked at the nestling however, I noticed that 4 of the nestlings looked to be about 20+ days old and the one runt seemed to be lagging way behind. He had the feathering on his body and head of a 16 day old but his flight feathers were about the same length as his nest mates.

On further exam, I found all of them to be underweight. The runt, worse of all and another nestling not to much better. All had an easily palpable keel bone. What is a keel bone? It is the bone in the center of the birds chest that should be surrounded by breast meat. The runts keel bone stuck out like a razor, skin flaky and dry. He proceeded to poop on me but then I saw his large hard abdomen. And when I say hard, I mean hard like a rock. And unless something is made of bone (or cartilage) there is nothing on a living body-human or animal that should be that hard. I kept him out of the nest and replaced the others. A Bot fly? A partial blockage? A tumor? I do not know what his problem is but I am vigorously re-hydrating the poor fellow.

Observing the nest is difficult with 2 young boys getting into everything but I tried to watch for mom and dad martin to no avail. The entire time I was checking the nests, changing, etc, there were no concerned parents flying about. I am beginning to think that an Owl has attacked and flushed the parents out. The nestlings being to young stayed safe in the dark far reaches of the Troyer gourd but without mom and dads care, they will soon expire.

Since Folke Peterson Wildlife Center is closing soon I placed a call to Busch Wildlife Center in Jupiter, Florida. I spoke to the director and if the nestling is still alive in the morning I will take him there. I will try to observe the nest to make sure that the parent/s are feeding. If not, I will remove them all and take them to the rehabber. It can be a case of late nest syndrome (I just made that name up) but all that means is that in very late nests it is not uncommon for one (or both) of the parents to loose interest in the process and slack off.

My first purple martin pair was a ASY male and a SY female. She worked her tail off and he would come by a few times a week. He would sleep in the gourd on occasion but basically left the entire raising of the clutch to her. She successfully fledged her 2 nestlings-all alone- after all the martins were gone.

But as for this nest, I am concerned.

Nest Check for June 15, 2009

Monday, June 15th, 2009

With everything going on I can’t believe I found time for a nest check. After crunching some numbers, I am very happily surprised. I had doubted my ability this year, for my colony to achieve the 100 mark. But reach it it has! With two nests still with eggs and eight nests still with young, my colony has fledged 103 young purple martins!

Remember, the Folke Peterson Wildlife Center “Wild Wednesday” is only 2 days away. Hope to see you at 7pm on June 17, 2009.

First Fledgelings Moving On

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

The first wave of fledglings has apparently moved on. After some 60 purple martins successfully fledged they had been returning (for the most part) every night to sleep. Today I noticed a much smaller group before sunset on the gourd racks and they took off as a unit to parts unknown. They did not return tonight. I have been noticing that the martins have been acting more and more flighty. Probably due to the high number of inexperienced youngsters that seem to be more nervous than their older more seasoned counterparts. As soon as I walk outside they fly off in a large group only to settle for a moment before flying off again. They actually seem to enjoy their new found freedom in the air and my heart lifts up with them every time they take off.

After Purple Martins fledge, the parents begin taking them to “assembly areas” where they roost at night. The birds eventually move to the premigratory roosts or staging areas which serve as a final stop over before the birds begin their migration to South America.

I must admit though, my sadness that this move away from “home”, makes me sad. The season is another step closer to being over in the south. Soon it will be time to visit the only premigratory roost I know of in Davie. Though a few more babies have been added to the count almost all the other nests are way to close to fledging to check. After those birds fledge my season will be basically over.

For those of you with new sites, or those that do not have a colony yet. NOW is the time to play dawnsong and keep your housing up. The youngsters are making the rounds and are visiting housing. If your housing is situated correctly and is attractive to the martins they will return. Remember that though my birds will return to my yard, the purple martins that fledged from my colony will mostly disburse to other locations.

A partial nest check is over due and I will try for either June 6 or this weekend to check the numbered rack and the aluminum house. As I mentioned there are too many nests approaching fledging age to check the lettered rack. After the problem with wet nests I am understandably nervous of what is in store.  but I know in my heart that I have done my part and next year I will again strive to do more.

Remember, I will be doing a Purple Martin Presentation at Folke Peterson Nature Center on Wednesday June 17 at 7 pm. I hope to see you there!

©2009 S.Halpin/PurpleMartinArt.com

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Not that I am not grateful for the rain that South Florida so desperately needs. I really don’t want the rain to go away. Just give me enough time to take care of business on the 3 poles. South Florida has had torrential downpours in the last week or so as a result of a low pressure system that was actually threatening to turn into an early Tropical Depression. Hurricane season can’t wait to start, apparently.

The nest checks could wait no more. Last nest check of the numbered gourd rack had gourd # 10  smelling quite ripe and needing a change badly. The babies all fledged successfully in that nest but yesterday as I watched the birds coming in for the night, I noticed that no one wanted to enter that gourd. So I was finally able to do several nest changes in empty gourds that had already fledged on the numbered rack and also changed several nests with babies on the lettered rack. The smell was reminiscent of the monkey cages at the Bronx Zoo and General Tso’s Chicken from the neighborhood Chinese restaurant. I doubt I will ever be able to eat General Tso’s Chicken again. Thankfully my experience as a nurse and mom has prepared me well for the foulness of the situation…5 straight days of sideways falling rain, plus bird poop, plus “bug parts” was turning into a potent compost material. I am convinced that had I not changed the nests for some of the nestlings that some will have perished in short order. The nestlings in Gourd “D” were wet and dirty. They seemed grateful to be placed back in a dry clean nest. I noticed one of the nestlings had a small lump on its abdomen that reminded me of a cyst or a tumor. Hopefully it is benign but I will observe it. All but the telescopic pole was checked as thunder was rumbling again and a drizzle began to fall.

Last night I had the strangest dream. In the dream I heard the wolf whistle call of a starling. Then this morning when I went outside to check on the birds and check the trap, as I ALWAYS do. To my surprise I looked down at the trap and I see a bird in the trap. At first I thought it was a fledgling martin that let his curiosity get the better of him. When I looked closer I saw that it was not one but 2, yes TWO Starlings in “the little repeating nest-trap-that-could”. 

There are some half dozen starlings frequenting the yard and I decided to keep the younger of the two as a lure. Now to just work on my baited trap.

I was glad to be able to get some good up close photos of the European Starling and several came out quite well.

Nest Check Results for 5-23-09:

Fledged to date:    58

Total Eggs remaining:       28

Total Young remaining:       38  (+10 ? Unable to check telescopic pole)

Fledged!

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Purple Martins on Nestcam gourd #11 have fledged!

It is official, they are flying around like maniacs. A bit unsteady but apparently without incident. The Nestcam was so dirty that it was hard to make out who was even in the gourd. I finally brought myself to lower the rack and in doing so flushed out a few straggler fledglings from gourds #11 and 12 but it had to be done. At approx 31 days old, I knew they would be fine. The Nestcam is now cleaned off and on gourd #4 which needs a watchful eye as I have not seen daddy helping and mom seems to be taking her time with feedings. The babies did not seem as plump as I would like and they seemed a bit bony so I will be watching this gourd closely to make sure that they are getting enough to eat.

Two of the nests are down right nasty and if it were not for a clutch of new eggs in gourd #8 (a renest attempt) I would have done a nest change. This was the first nest check for the numbered gourd rack in over a week so a complete check was long overdue. But to do a full nest check and then do a nest change also would take too much time. The nastiest of the nests is due to fledge within a week so I am considering leaving it be. OR I may go out tomorrow and bring the rack down and change the nesting material. I hate the thought of them in that mess.

Under the lettered gourd rack, I found a dead nestling. Approx 4 days old and it had been dead quite some time. It came from gourd H and the other 5 nestlings in the gourd seemed fine. The are about 8 days old. I will never know what was the cause. An SY male perhaps or just a case of natural death and the parents cleaning house. 

I am unable to check the telescopic pole as the nestlings in the aluminum Sunset Inn house are ready to fledge at any time.

In other news: There is lots of racoon feces on our patio and I am starting to get more nervous. A flicker has been cleaning out the screech Owl box since the owls are gone and one of the tidbits it threw out was a whole owl egg. I fear the owls did not have a successful clutch in my yard.

Partial nest check results (unable to check telescopic pole)

Total Eggs:  17 + (10 eggs unable to verify if hatched)

Total Young:  53 (Plus 15 on other pole?) 68

Total (active) Nests:  22

Fledged to Date: 28

Snake in the Gourd!

Monday, April 27th, 2009

While we as Purple Martin Landlords can try to provide the safest possible nesting environment for our birds, NO colony is immune from tragedy. Today was a case in point.

As scheduled I performed a routine nest check. Since my children are inside my house napping. I usually break the nest check up. I do one rack then go inside and check on my kids, if all is quiet I go do the next. By around 4:30 this afternoon I was only able to do the 2 gourd racks. I could not get to the telescopic pole that has the house on it. Later, when my husband arrived, after dinner, I finally decided to go ahead and complete the nest check. I thought it would just be better to keep all 3 housing units on the same schedule. Well, thank God for that. Tragedy had struck!

No other animal is more associated with the devil than snakes. Having been a snake owner at one time in my life, I can understand the fascination with them. They are eating machines. What other animal is so adept at finding, killing and consuming its prey, that it could fore go hands and feet? So at about 7:30PM, I was free to do the nest check. Usually I would never do a check so late in the evening. As a matter of fact, I always tell people that it is best to do the check when the least amount of birds are around. But today was different, I wanted to check on them and though light was fading fast, the light was good and the summer sun had another half hour yet to shine. I lowered the rack unaware of the horror that was about to greet me.

As I lowered the quad-tel pole down, I could hear the hungry chirps of the babies in the Excluder gourd. The Excluder gourd and the natural gourd both hang under my aluminum purple martin house which is protected by a S&K plastic predator guard. A S&K platform feeder rests above the guard. Both nests are about the same age…about 6 days old. 5 babies in both nests. I was excited to see them, as I am with all my birds. I first checked on my “tame” purple Martin female in compartment “A” of the house. She sat against the wall and allowed me to take a picture of her with no fuss. A blessing to see her so quiet with her nestlings huddled under her. I spoke gentle and soft to let her know all was OK. Closing the compartment I checked the others on the house, saving the gourds for last. I opened the natural gourd access cap and lo and behold, the devil sat staring at me. About 3 feet of red corn snake. One dead nestling underneath it and a few wing feathers from the mother martin were all that were left. I jumped back and cursed and so did the snake. Awakened from its comfortable spot of warmth with a full belly, it coiled back in the gourd. Thank goodness I keep my cell phone on me. My husband was out in a moment with my gardening gloves and I am not ashamed, I put the snake out of my misery. The poor dead nestling now alone in its nest.

My son and I buried the nestling in the back corner of the yard.  We said a prayer for it to find its way back to its mother and siblings, in Purple Martin heaven. The snake we left in the garbage can, for it to find its head.

The take home #1. Use traditional stovepipe type aluminum pole guards with your round and square poles. In my opinion, the S&K pole guard is flawed when dealing with smaller snakes. Unfortunately the pole being triangular limits you on the type of pole guard you can use. But Small snakes can be just as damaging as a larger snake. The plastic triangular hub that the guard attaches to, has small openings that this small snake with a 1/2 inch head was able to easily pass through. A traditional guard-installed properly, has no such gaps and would have protected from this little snake. 

Take home #2. Don’t let complacency keep you from installing snake netting. Though I have it handy and used it last year, I had not “gotten around to it” yet this year. Snake netting will be added tomorrow.

Nest check for April 27, 2009

Total eggs:  58        Total Young:   57        Total nests:  26

Next nest check Thursday April 30

Ratatouille?

Friday, April 17th, 2009

 When I received an email from Tim M. regarding the large rat looking object on gourd #11, I had to admit it looked odd. For the people who look in on my colony, to see the large black ‘thing’ clinging to the side of the gourd, I apologize if I frightened any of you. It does look like a rat hanging on the side but alas it is just a few socks with rocks inside. The added weight of the web camera housing had the gourd leaning over to the side. Not that the Purple Martins minded this at all. BUT the eggs and now nestlings, kept settling just below camera view. Every time I did a nest check I had to move the nest over so that the nestcamcaught a better view of the action. I had tried multiple times to adjust the camera, to no avail. Finally, at my wits end, I zip tied the rocks as a counter weight the gourd. With one egg left in the gourd I hope to catch a better view of the babies now that they are being fed.

 I am not sure about the remaining egg on the nestcam. Whether or not it will eventually hatch. I had counted 4 eggs multiple times on previous nest checks. And though it is probably a case of me missing the 5th egg (several times) it could also be an egg that it was dumped by another female. Well, it could happen. Though eggs can hatch up to 48 hours apart, the window is closing fast and if the egg has not hatched by the morning, I am afraid its chances are slim. Mom and dad are busy feeding the 4 nestlings, so incubation of the final egg is dwindling. After the pipping egg death, I am hesitant to handle the egg. If it is still unhatched in another day I will look at it closer.

The male ASY martin is being very enthusiastic about feeding his nestlings. I watched him bring in a small dragonfly that appeared way to large for the little nestling and try for some time to stuff it down one of the babies. The little nestling had wings sticking out of his mouth and I watched as he was apparently trying to pull the wings off of it. It was comical but this sort of thing can be dangerous.

 

©2009 S.Halpin/PurpleMartinArt.com


Todays nest check are as follows:

Total eggs:  61            Total young:   32             Total nests:   22 

The numbered gourd rack (the birdcam) is now officially 100% occupied with eggs and/or young.

Another nest check will be done Sunday afternoon.

Nest Check for April 7,2009

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Gourd #1- 3 eggs
Gourd #2- 5 eggs
Gourd #3- 5 eggs
Gourd #5- 2 eggs
Gourd #6- 6 eggs
Gourd #7- 4 eggs
Gourd #8- 3 eggs
Gourd #9 -5 eggs
Gourd #10- 6 eggs
Gourd #11- 4 eggs
Gourd #12- 4 eggs

Gourd A- 1 egg
Gourd J- 1 egg

Excluder gourd -5 eggs

Natural horizontal gourd - 5 eggs

Sunset Inn compartment A – 6 eggs

For a grand total of 62 eggs in 15 gourds and 1 nest in house.


I AGAIN tried to adjust the nestcam and can not get it aimed quite right. I will try, yet again on Saturday when I do the next nest check. I hope to go to Green Cay this Friday. I wanted to go last week but between my dental problems and our schedules; it was not possible.  I must admit that my spirits are always lifted when it comes to purple martins, but as of late any joy is somewhat muted with pain. Hopefully the worst is somewhat over and my dental issues will improve, as will my humor.

 

 (c) Blog contents copyright 2009 S.Halpin/PurpleMartinArt.com