Posts Tagged ‘purple martin’

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

And So Purple Martin Season Begins!

Monday, January 13th, 2014

2014 beginsYesterday was the official start to our purple Martin season for 2014. The first purple Martin for the season was reported in Jupiter on December 30th but January 12 was our lucky day. Today I count 3 ASY males and 1 female going in and out of gourds and the males are singing happily on the rack. I find this semi out of character as they usually are very quiet the first week or so. I almost wonder if they have been here but perhaps I did not notice them. It is possible since we have been über busy here at PurpleMartins-R-Us.com. Our annual price changes, new products, and after Christmas rush has been keeping things busy.
One of our new to us products is the entire line of CUENT (Creative Universe) gourd racks including the K series 24 racks and the Gemini racks. Also new is Free Shipping on ALL martin houses, gourds, and gourd racks.

 

Purple Martin Nestling: Finding A Too Young To Fly Baby On The Ground

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Here is a question I received concerning a nestling found on the ground.

Q:

Dear PurpleMartins-R-Us:
I have some martins and a baby was pushed out by a SY male martin. I’m not sure which gourd the nestling came out of. I put him back into one of the gourds. Will he be ok if it is the wrong gourd?

A:

Simply put, as long as they are close in age it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Its always better to place in a nest of same or slightly younger nest mates, if same age is not possible. Never have the new member be the youngest, if you can help it.

But purple martin jumpers and what to do, is a complex questions and their are a lot of variables in order to answer this question properly. First of all, a Purple Martin Jumper (for those who do not know) are nestling martins that are too young to fly but somehow get pushed or jump out of their nest. They are referred to as Jumpers whether they jump or are pushed. The most important thing to remember is that if you do not discover why the baby was on the ground, it MAY happen again.In the above question it was a case of being pushed out, so the solution was simple. If they are pushed out by either another martins, then your chances of a repeat are greatly diminished! Be happy! But if the baby is truly jumping then the reasons needs to be addressed immediately to prevent another leap and to prevent the nestling from certain death. Purple martins will NOT feed babies on the ground.

We will look at the true jumper and what to do in an upcoming post.

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.

Three More Fly the Coop

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Three more nestlings became fledglings. It was the most painful thing to watch. Once again no parent in sight. I ran outside this morning and one of the larger nestlings had made it to the top of the gourd. It begged pathetically at every bird that flew by. I knew that if a Hawk, or one of the many Swallow-Tailed Kites saw him, he would be picked off. Luckily for me, I did not witness that. What I did witness was the begging that went on for about an hour. Sitting in the sun as the flock of purple martins would spook and fly up in a panic at the slightest disturbance and then settle back on the racks looking in and out of all the compartments. The showed great interest in the nestlings but no adult took pity and brought a morsel.

The Nestling that was sitting outside was visibly thinner than it should be. But the thinnest stayed in the gourd. Finally with a sudden burst the nestling took to the air and made a wide circle and easily gained altitude. It made an ungraceful landing in the Slash Pine and all the martins followed enthusiastically. Many of them also perched in the tree chirping and calling to the new fledgling. It was trying to keep a hold of the pine needles it was holding on to and at this point I went inside. I checked the nestcam and there still was the runt, chirping away.

I know that in theory that this fledgling had successfully fledged. My numbers get the benefit of another “plus” but in my heart, I don’t feel this nest will do well. Behind the eight ball there is a lot of catching up that needs to be done and I wonder if they will have the time to do it. Learning to fly is the easy part. Being in condition to fly to South America is another. I estimate that the number of visitors that I have seen will again drop withing the week. I would be surprised to see more than the occasional purple martin come by August.

I went ahead and went out with my boys and we did not return until the afternoon. Looking out I saw nothing. I looked with my binoculars, I saw nothing. I checked the nestcam and there was the runt. All alone. I still had some of the crickets and knowing how he was yesterday when I checked them I went ahead and lowered the rack. I again carefully slipped a mesh bag over the entrance so that he would not flush out. I took him out and my hopes for him fledging are nearly zero. Even skinnier than before his keel bone is protruding more than ever. I feel at this point that he is so malnourished that he wouldn’t have the muscle tone to even be able to fly. I gave him some Gatorade and am keeping him outside in a 5 gallon bucket hanging up an a peg. No snake or coon will reach him and if he wishes to fly out he can. But as I suspected, he has not attempted to do so yet. So Gatorade was given till dark and I will start again early in the AM.

My prayers are for his peace and mine.

Sad News

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

As you know, on Saturday I dropped off a HY purple martin that I found at the Davie Roost. The apparent trauma of a tree collision (?) the martin was unable to fly and seemed to be slightly uncoordinated. I brought him to the Folke Peterson Wildlife Center where he was given some medications and observed. Today I received bad news. Apparently after he failed a flight test, he had an X-ray taken and it was found that he has a crushed shoulder. Unable to be fixed surgically, he is doomed; and though calm and comfortable, his days are numbered. I am upset at the news and so looked forward to releasing him back at the roost to join his comrades. I am so sad to think that he will meet the same fate as those that were littering the floor. Another fallen martin, another statistical failure and another purple martin that will never fly across the Equator. I will tell you when his hour comes.

The colony remains busy in the morning but quiet as evening approaches and I am looking forward to going to the roost again. I have been unable to locate any raccoon repellent at the local Lowes, hardware store, feed store, Dicks sporting goods or Bass pro shop. The ideas I have received include moth balls, metal flashing, Vicks vapor rub, large cat (like lions and tiger) feces, traps and chaining a large dog to a tree under the colony. Unfortunately, I have been unable to come through on many of those ideas. The folks at one animal removal service told me that since the raccoons have discovered the richness of the roost, that a chemical/scent repellant will be useless.

Update on Injured Martin

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Good news on the HY purple martin! In yesterdays post I wrote about the injured martin I found laying upsidedown at the base of a tree at the purple martin roost. Last night I fed him some scrambled eggs and this morning I fed him some more eggs and about a dozen large flies I caught. Yes, can you imagine me catching flies to feed a bird? What purple martin landlords will do for these birds. The martin seemed in good condition but just didn’t want to fly so I had decided to bring him to Folke Peterson Wildlife Center.

Later in the day I called and Vered, the Certified Veterinary Technician at FPWC, told me that she also suspected head collision trauma. The bird had received some medication to decrease any swelling in the brain and if all goes well he may make it to Brazil yet! Hopefully he won’t get to close to that raccoon at the roost before he flies south. The question is now begging to be asked, What is head collision trauma and what should you know about it?

We called this type of injury “deceleration trauma” in my nursing days. This little purple martin probably flew into the tree at the roost or perhaps even another bird in flight, nothing could have prevented this accident. Fatal head trauma happens all the time, and most of it is completely preventable. Did you know that window collisions are the number 1 human related cause of death in birds. We are talking about estimates of 100 to 900 MILLION dead birds per year from flying into glass windows.  www.Flap.org has a great list of the top 13 human related causes of bird deaths and the info on this site is sobering. Check it out HERE. But what should one do when you find a victim of a window collision? Read this article by FLAP called Enhancing Recovery: Helping Bird Rescuers Help Birds .

Though there was no way to prevent this young martins collision, most of the human related collisions can be prevented. How can you protect birds from window collisions? Window Screens break up the reflection of the glass. Hanging any number of objects in front of window like old CD’s, ribbon, suncatchers, stickers or decals such as WindowAlert are a great help also.

I will keep you up to date on the little guy.

Fledgling Shenanigans

Monday, June 8th, 2009

OK, the drought is officially over. The water has been coming down in buckets so much that the pool is over flowing and when you stand on our back patio you get the feeling you are on a ship or an island. Ducks were actually swimming by where dry land was only last week. Nest checks are almost impossible on the numbered gourd rack due to the standing water by the base of the pole. If I had a pair of waders I would have used them. The lettered rack now has too many nests close to fledging to do a check.

The purple martins on the nestcam have long since fledged and though they are still returning to sleep, most of the others on that rack are not, as per my previous post. Mornings are still quite active with visitors and fledglings flying about. Evenings are getting more quiet with all birds in the gourds well before dark.

The new nestling in the Sunset Inn house is missing and no further eggs have hatched. Now only 6 of the eggs (of eight) remain and of those remaining eggs most seem far along in development. The translucent pearly quality of the eggs is gone and the remaining eggs seem dark and heavy. If they are still being tended to, they should be hatching shortly but if they have been abandoned then they were very close to hatching and taking into consideration that one nestling did hatch, I am thinking the nest was abandoned very soon after the nestling hatched and the remaining eggs have since perished. Another terrible blow to the egg / hatch / fledge ratio. Next year I will make sure that the house is positioned so that I can view both sides from the patio. Though the birds seem to like the open fly way on the north side of the housing, I will have to make the change so that I can better see what is going on with the nests.

The bigger problem at the moment seems to be lazy fledglings. Several fledgelings have taken to hijacking nests to steel food from nestlings. It seems that once the fledgling is in the nest the parents can not distinguish these young from their own and will feed them. The spoiled brats sit and wait for their meals to arrive while pushing the smaller nestlings out of the way. On the last nest check there were 2 nests of younger birds 12 & 18 days old) that had older, already fledged birds stealing food from them. I evicted them but I wonder if this behavior had something to do with the little nestling dying. Somethings we will never know.

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

Pole Drama Mama

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Before I opened our business PurpleMartins-R-Us.com, I did what many people do that want to try their hand at Purple Martins. I went out and purchased an inexpensive plastic house. With the cheap house came a cheap triangular pole, and with the cheap pole came a cheap feeder/platform tray that slides over the pole.

Last year I had big problems with egg shells sliding down the inner opening of the platform feeder and sliding down in between the pole sections. What resulted was severe sticking of the pole. So when I attempted to circumvent this issue this year by gluing a barrier around the opening, I was confident it would succeed. NOT! My gorilla glue lasted about 2 months in the sun and came unglued allowing the bits of shell to slide, once again, down the inner hole and in between the pole sections. What resulted was the delay of nest checks on the Sunset Inn house and today’s story.

As you may or may not realize, I do not sell these triangular poles on my site. I had a gourd rack on a triangular pole that I phased out this year with the new Economy 12 gourd rack and I am sorry I did not go ahead and phase the triangular poles out in their entirety. It has been a continued headache.

I greatly underestimated my desire to hoist up a telescopic pole every few days. Last year one of the plastic tabs that keeps the triangular telescopic pole locked in place broke and I had to use a long bolt in the opening to extend the pole. One pole bent about 10 degrees in a thunderstorm and one developed a very slight bend that made bringing the pole up and down difficult. Then of course there was the problem of the egg shells getting inside the pole sections. I can assure you that next year all my poles will be pulley operated.

What does this all mean to someone that wants to get into Purple Martins without spending SEVERAL hundred dollars? One can easily spend upwards of $500 to $1000 (and more) for a sweet purple martin set up. Does this mean that you should NOT try your hand at purple martins? No, it only means that if you choose to go the frugal way into the hobby do not be surprised if within a few years you find yourself wishing you had a sweet tricked out Purple Martin set up. Do not feel badly that your cheap system has let you down. You may just find that you have outgrown it.

So what do I have on my triangular pole? I placed my aluminum Sunset Inn house on it with a custom made mounting plate. It seems to be hanging in there just fine. It’s my arms that are giving out. And other than the egg shell pain in my noodle, it will serve out this season (I hope) with honor. Finally after a can of WD-40 and much prying and wiggling and banging it came free. 3 delayed nest checks later I was finally able to lower the Sunset Inn and check it and the 2 gourds hanging under it. What did I find? Both gourds have eggs, a total of 7 more for the count and the house itself has eggs but I don’t know how many. “Why is that?”, you ask. Look and see.

This is why I love these birds. Stupid? No, she knew it was me. I was fooling with the pole for some minutes, calling out to my husband and when I heard a rustling and looked, there she sat. Calm and trusting. Watching me and knowing. Partners we are. Tethered and wild. Human and not. Surface dweller and flying free. Working together by the grace of God and under His watchful eye. How can one not want to put up a Purple Martin house?

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