Archive for November, 2008

The War on Starlings: Fighting the Good Fight!

Friday, November 21st, 2008

 Sometimes I feel like I am preaching to the choir, when it comes to Non-native cavity nesting birds like Starlings and House Sparrows and the damage that they can inflict on a colony. I remind myself, however, that many people that come across my blog and read it, have no bias against S&S(Starlings & Sparrows). There is a vast expanse of people that are interested in birding but have yet to make the leap into being an active participant in conservation. When it comes to S&S there is not enough that I can say.

Which brings me to the day when it got personal. 5 years living in my semi-rural area, I had never seen a Starling. Did I think my colony was immune from the presence of Starlings? They were only 20 minutes away at the local “SuperMart” in town. No, I was not that naive. I was however still surprised the morning I went out to enjoy my morning coffee and heard that tell tale wolf whistle. My fears were confirmed when the lone Starling landed on the house. I of course, was in a panic. I knew what was to come. Mainly, more starlings. It is amazing to see how they operate. Truly an amazing bird, in many ways. Fortunately for the Starlings, as a species, they are in no way shape or form in any danger. Unfortunately, as individuals on my property, they must cease to exist.

I am very lucky. Being a stay at home mom I have all day access to my birds in case of a problem. The Martins start their day earlier than my children do, so I can observe them in peace. One thing I noticed is that the starlings would only investigate my housing early in the morning. While Starlings are in “investigation mode” after10:30 or so, they would not return. So I knew that my window of opportunity was narrow. Not being fully prepared for battle I knew I could not afford to let them gather any foothold. I had all the makings of a disaster, no traps and I am a horribly bad shot.

To make a long story short I captured 3 Starlings that morning and 3 more in the following week. I saw several more but by that time I had converted all my compartments to SREH and built a repeating nest box trap.

The philosophy that some subscribe to, that Purple Martins and S&S can coexists peacefully is impossible to believe once you witness the reaction of the Purple Martins. The Starlings move from compartment to compartment with impunity. The first Starling entered a 6×12 compartment with a round entrance. The ASY pair had built a beautiful nest and I am sure was within days of starting to lay eggs. The female was inside the compartment when the Starling entered. That female left and never returned. I was lucky. I had about 80% occupancy and no shortage of Purple Martins last year. Another pair (SY) ended up using that beautiful nest. Never the less, any lost opportunity to assist my beloved birds, I regret. And I can not help but think of all the landlords and wanna be landlords who lose Purple Martins due to even one visit from a Starling. At a time when most people are at work, the Starlings are doing damage by intimidation alone. Never mind the fact that they are merciless in their attacks on our native cavity nesting birds.

So my point is, there is no need for mercy with a bird that shows no mercy. Nature is hard and cruel. Our tolerance and acceptance of Starlings makes life that much harder and that much crueler for the Purple Martin and other native cavity nesters. Use SREH to protect from Starlings. Be proactive about protection from ALL predators at your site. If you can not bring yourself to harming a Starling or English House Sparrow, find a raptor rehabilitator in your area or someone who has snakes. Call your local zoo or another area landlord who has no such qualms. You can do it! Our Martins are counting on you.

Blog & Photos Copyrighted 2008: S.Halpin/

How Can I Get That New Martin System?

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

My current issue and problem is keeping me up late at nights. My husband asks what is wrong and I find myself in turmoil. Do I continue the hold back? DO I confess my thoughts? Do I start out marriage down a path of resentments and pain?

I am distraught. Less than 11 weeks to go and I still do not know how to approach the discussion that needs to take place. Let me explain…My husband is not, in ANY way shape or form a Purple Martin fan. Don’t get me wrong, he listens to me when I talk about them and cares that I care about them but if given to his druthers he wouldn’t care less if every rain forest was paved over. I love him dearly but how do I approach a frugal man with the money spending options in a nationwide economic recession? I can not lie, this I know. So instead I stare off into space wondering when and how I can bring this up.

I have a few options

1. Wait for the 2 weeks before Christmas and when he asks me, “Honey, what do you want for Christmas?” I let him have it with BOTH barrels instead of my usual reply, “I have all I need, my dear.”

2. Continue to pine and sigh and hope he notices my depressed state during “Half Time”.

3.Instruct my 2 1/2 year old to say, “Martins make mommy happy!”

4.Change the image on his computers desktop to that of a Big Ol Purple Martin Gourd rack…since he doesn’t know how to change it back he will eventually buy me the rack in order for me to get rid of the picture.

5.Arrange some sort of a “trade” with him…..hmmm

All because I am honest with my husband. I sometimes think what harm could a little white lie cause. But we must all remember the Rumpelstiltskin effect. You know that story, right? The father tells the King that his beautiful daughter can weave hay into gold. then she keeps getting in a bigger and bigger jam?

For example: “Oh look at what I found on the curb that someone was throwing away!! A brand new aluminum house with a winch system at that!” Of course I would then have to explain how I cleaned it up to look like new. I would then find myself in a bad scenario where he would start bringing me his favorite old salt water reel to clean up. Then my excuse to throw away his favorite old shirt and sweatpants with the multiple stains would be useless. “But honey, you can make anything look like new”

If I go with a “Oh, look what I won in this contest I entered”  Then my husband would send me out with his paycheck to buy lotto tickets. And he ALWAYS checks his numbers. Besides the fact, with my luck he would instantly know it was a lie. People ask me who I am routing on just so they can know what team to NOT bet on.

I guess I will just have to go with the honest straight forward, if not guilt ridden approach. “Honey, I bore you 2 beautiful sons. I cook, I clean and all I ask is this XYZ system to quench my thirst for Purple. How about it?”

Blog & Photos Copyrighted 2008: S.Halpin/

Houses and Gourd Racks and Poles, OH MY!!

Friday, November 7th, 2008
I can hardly believe that in less than 90 days or so, my birds will be back. Once again my days will be filled with the sound of the martins singing outside. I will also be once again, consumed with these blue-ish/black birds. Nest checks, nest changes, Starling invaders! I can’t wait! Well, except for the Starlings…I can do without those…

I am so proud of the development that has been made at Now, among the huge selection of Purple Martin gifts such as shirts, hats, decorative tiles, jewelry, art prints, signs, windcatchers and so much more, We now have a large selection of quality housing available. Aluminum house systems from Trendsetter.Purple Martin House

Purple Martin WatersEdge 14
Purple Martin WatersEdge 14


Purple Martin House - Sunset Inn 
Purple Martin House – Sunset Inn

To name a few. We also carry the Trio castle, Sunset Inn and Lonestar line of Purple Martin Houses (Alamo & Goliad houses)

Purple Martin Houses by Lonestar 
Purple Martin Houses by Lonestar

 And I have not even MENTIONED the Purple Martin Gourd Racks!! So much happening!

Gourd racks by Creative Universe Enterprises are on MY own Christmas list and I will be replacing my current S&K quad pole with one of the CUE systems. It is just too heavy for me to lift on a telescopic pole. But now I am starting to dream out loud again. 
I can’t wait!!!


Blog & Photos Copyrighted 2008: S.Halpin/

Sometimes It’s More Than Martins

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

This past season, as some of you may know, the local newspaper did a very small write up about me and my colony.  (Check out the video HERE!) The journalist wrote furiously and asked her questions and as these things go , I was quite pleased with how it turned out. Other than a few small errors and the fact that my hair looked AWFUL. But such is life and such is my curse. Whenever a camera points my way my hair decides to point whatever way it wants.

Anyway, after the article came out I got numerous calls and emails from some very nice people. Some of which had been trying for quite some time to get Purple Martins in their backyard. Usually with no success as yet. If I could pick out a common thread in peoples difficulties, I would say the main problem seems to be trees.

One lovely lady stands out in my mind. She lives on 5 acres of heavily wooded land. Recently widowed the middle aged woman wants to see Purple Martins fill the house with life. As it is now the plastic house stands like a lonely reminder to the memory of her loving husband who put the house up shortly before his unexpected passing recently.

As I stood looking at the Purple Martin house I noted a few things. It is your standard beginners house, small compartments with round holes. The distance to her house was fine but the surrounding woods were the problem. Though the tree line was approx 30 feet on 3 sides, the Pine trees themselves were over 40 feet tall and packed together tight. They seemed to tower over the Purple Martin house. Even though the martin house was up on its pole, the trees loomed. They reminded me of the trees in the “Wizard Of Oz”, ready to come to life and begin to throw pine cones at us at any moment. All in all, a great place for a hawk to ambush. Any Purple Martins would basically have to fly in from overhead and dive straight down. No flyways here. I gave her some advice-mainly to cut back some trees IF possible (at least top them), enlarge compartments, hang a gourd or two, SREH, Decoys and Dawnsong and hopefully next season she will get a Purple Martin to at least land on her housing.

Though her husband and soul mate was taken from her without time for a goodbye, a visit from a purple bird would go a long way to healing her heart.

Blog & Photos Copyrighted 2008: S.Halpin/