Archive for February, 2009

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/

Martins, Martins Everywhere! 2/19/09

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

In recent posts I have speculated that Purple Martins were spending more time at home and that nesting should begin soon. Well, nesting has not yet started but it can not be far off. I do not believe there was any significant portion of time today that my Purple Martins were away from home. At 2 PM they were still crawling all over the housing and chortling away. I am confident that I will have no vacancies as I counted at least 15 Martins at one time and saw pairs defending compartments all day long. The noise is a true blessing and reminds me of the gifts of life and joy and God, all wrapped up in a purple package. The activity and song has such an exuberance to it. It is hard to remember how desolate my yard becomes when the Martins are not here.

The gourd rack is the winner again but not as clear cut as last year. Though the CUENT Economy Gourd rack was first to welcome home Purple Martins, the Sunset Inn house is taking on house guests. I estimate 2 pairs in the house and at least one bachelor ASY male. A solo male in an Excluder gourd hanging under the house and at least half of the gourd rack is housing ASY Purple Martins. Not one SY yet to be seen BUT I have a feeling that I am thrilled and looking forward to nest building to commence. I wish I had the means to put up another house or rack for them as I hate to think that any Purple Martins would want for a nest site. I have seen many houses get boarded up with the housing crisis and know that these birds have been facing these challenges for some time. If only there were more people out there that were interested not just being environmentally friendly, but “environmentally intimate”.

There is nothing more intimate and precious than watching the cycle of life unfold so dramatically right in your own backyard.  Counting the eggs in the nest and marking the hatch day on the calander. Counting the nestlings as they emerge from their shells. Watching them grow and feather out over the course of a month. Holding them and whispering well wishes and prayers as you place them back in their nest for the last time. Then waiting and watching the parents coax the fledglings out into the world. Knowing that the parents will return every year, trusting me with their young. Watching over me as I say my little prayers. Waiting with bugs in their mouths, to feed the hungry youngsters, whose appetites never seem to wane. “I’m hurrying…I’m hurrying” I’ll say to them, as if they understand.   This is what I do. And Autumn will be here too soon. Leaving my yard silent.

Blog & Photos Copyrighted 2009: S.Halpin/

WebCam Woes!

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Oh gosh! If I never have to deal with this webcam debacle, I will die happy!! It may not be THAT bad, but dealing with this webcam has been a testament to God given patience and a few wine coolers. So most of you know about the webcam. How many of you know what a royal pain in the toukis it is?

I NOW have the webcam with another broadcasting site called . The actual site is at and as of now it is working…knock on wood. It seems that computers have a love hate relationship with routers. Routers are those little boxes that hook up your computer to high speed Internet connections and wireless connections in your house. They are a Godsend and a curse. First of all you want the router to protect your computer from pre-pubescent jerks trying to wreck havoc on your PC. The hackers now troll your neighborhood looking for wireless connections to hack into your computer. BUT to connect a webcam to another computer somewhere else, you have to tell your router that some things are OK. But I digress.

So camstreams is out (couldn’t get it to keep working) , Uviewit is out (too expensive!), Mogulus is out (could never get that one to work at all!) and we are now on I MUST apologize for the ads that pop up on the stream. I must assure you that I, or Do NOT get anything from those ads. It is a trade for the service provided by They let me stream for free…I put up with intrusive ads for skittles or whatever it is. So please forgive me for that.

NOW, about my Purple Martins. Who really cares about webcams! I am up to a dozen birds, or so I think. The Sunset Inn has drawn a few birds as residents. Which is interesting as last year the rack filled up completely withASY martins before the old plastic house got any traffic. It eventually got its fair share of SY’s. This year the new Aluminum house already has a lone ASY male on the far side AND a possible ASY PAIR on the near side. I added a 2×4 wire Owl protecting “cage” to the front of the house for added security. The Purple Martins are navigating the wire with no difficulty.

I took the pellet gun for some target practice and appear to be a terrible shot. A far cry from my marksman days in the US Army. Then again, if it was a BB rifle I am sure I would be a better shot. It is a pump up pellet handgun and my arms shake like jello after a few shots. I am consistently to the right of the target and no amount of site adjustments seems to alter that. Weird.

As per my previous post the birds are still staying close to home with birds around till noon and then back checking in after 3 or so. They are gearing up and I can’t wait to see them bringing in the pine needles!!!

Blog & Photos Copyrighted 2009: S.Halpin/

Changes Noticed in Martins Behaviour

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

It may be a sign that the ASY Purple Martins at my site are aware of something. I have not seen any SY birds yet but today the 8-10 birds that I have have been checking in quite often throughout the day. That is a major change as up until now they have been keeping a low profile.

The usual behaviour includes no birds around the housing after 9AM or so. No birds back at all (for the most part) until they are ready for bed. At 6 PM they zoom in without much ceremony at all. But today I have noticed that they are back and forth at the housing. All ASY birds still, but they are peeking in compartments, in and out of gourds, looking at the new Sunset Inn house and all around showing a high level of interest in the housing all day so far.  Even when they are not on the housing I can see them at a distance and here them occasionally. So they are staying closer to home. It will be interesting to see how they act this evening and if this behaviour is just a well deserved break after several weeks of cool weather and gusty breezes that would make their foraging for food a challenge. Perhaps the food is abundant today and they have the resources to keep a closer eye on the housing. Or perhaps there are some SY’s moving in.  Another possibility is that these are new birds moving in and NOT my birds at all. Simply other landlords ASY’s checking up on the neighbors. As you may know, arrival of the younger subadult birds (the SY’s) seems to coincide with nest building and an overall serious tone to the nesting season. These early weeks, prior to the SY’s arrival are much less intense.

Time will tell if which of these scenarios is in fact the case. At any even the frequent visits are a real treat and have perked up my spirits.

On another note, my Live Streaming Birdcam is still online HERE at After 8PM I am working on trying to get the webcam up via, an online broadcast site. As I work on the camstreams site I will eventually replace this as the source for my sites Live Birdcam. The previous software has changed its pricing as has become much to costly! Having the Camstreams site will allow me to have the Birdcam be on a site that is not commercial in origin.

Blog & Photos Copyrighted 2009: S.Halpin/

Close Call #1 of 2009. HAWK!!!

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

Copyright: S.Halpin/

Last nights temperatures dipped into the 30’s and all day today the highs did not reach the 60’s. Though these temperatures are not anything to cause concern, South Florida Purple Martins still face thier own set of challenges. Today was a prime example.

The 7+ birds that I estimate are here so far, were subdued and quiet. All morning, till about noon, they sat on the gourd rack with feathers fluffed and wings hanging low. Backs to the sun and beaks to the wind. They seemed to know better than to waste energy foraging for insects that would not be found. Even the Mockingbirds were eating berries off of the Sabal Palms. The Purple Martins are not so lucky to have such an option. So instead they sat, and sat, and waited. Eventually they ventured out but by 4PM they were already making their way back as if giving up in defeat to resume the same posture they had adopted in the morning hours. The few pair bonds that have formed, were huddled close at times. At other times they would enter the gourds together, as if to seek a warmer spot within. Eventually many of them just sat on the gourd rack. Waiting patiently for the day to end and the next challenge in their lives to begin. Little did they know the next challenge would take form of a feathered predator.

Being a typical South Floridian, the temperatures outside curbed my usual observations of my colony. Instead I took up the hunkered over posture that had my husband offering me Geritol. We happened to be talking about the birds and we both looked out just in time to see all the martins fly off in alert mode. A large red-tailed hawk followed in pursuit. Just as fast, I was out the door. Taking on the role of Purple Martin flock member, I ran out into the backyard and saw the hawk land in a tall pine tree next to my property, about 60 feet or so away from the Purple Martin housing. The martins were flying about, yet quiet in their concern, saving energy perhaps? Maybe they were just watching to see what the strange human that ventures so close to them was doing. I could not let them down. They were all watching me. The hawk included. So I did what any red blooded Purple Martin Landlord would do. I ran out to the tree in a clumsy lumbering gait. Semi- disabled by the frigid 56 degree temperatures. Partially twisting my ankle, I ran towards the tree and the hawk flew off in partial disgust, and partial amusement. The martins circled over me. A quiet nod of understanding and new found appreciation, I think I sensed. Then they landed. Backs to the sun and beaks to the wind, feathers fluffed and wings hanging low. Waiting for the next challenge.

Green Cay Nature Center

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

The Purple Martin season, here in South Florida, started early but is slow to pick up. My 2 pairs are faithful companions to the gourd rack but no newcomers have arrived as yet. I suspect within the next few weeks the other ASY”S will join. Of course the Live Streaming web/bird cam is available for viewing HERE.

Green Cay Nature Center

Last week I went to see the new gourd rack and house that Green Cay Nature Center & Wetlands purchased from PurpleMartins-R-Us. I was thrilled, honored and VERY impressed with what I saw. Not only is the center sure to become a top notch birding and wildlife destination, its staff, location and facilities are all world class.

I met up with Donald Campbell, the manager of the center, who took me to see the Purple Martin housing. On one side of the boardwalk stand 2 Trio “Grandpa’s” unconverted but well used by all reports. The distance to the new housing is far enough away that the birds in the Trios will probably not switch over, even though the housing is far superior. A testament to the Purple Martins site fidelity. As the season progresses however, I believe that the new housing will surpass its older housing options in popularity.

 The new Sunset Inn house and Economy 12 Gourd Rack are on the opposite side of the boardwalk in the same location that 2 wooden houses stood. The fate of the 2 wooden houses is proof of the downside of putting up a wooden house in South Florida. Without seasonal maintenance and upkeep (repainting) the wood is quick to rot.

Green Cay is over 100 acres of constructed wetlands that filters waste water from the water treatment plant across the street. The wetlands area naturally filters this water and allows it to recycle into the environment by evaporation and percolating into the water table. For those that live in South Florida and know of our recent drought, it is obvious the great benefit that this facility provides. In addition as the site matures and as birders and naturalists come to know of this center, the park will bring a source of tourism and revenue for Boynton Beach. The 1 1/2 miles of boardwalk are a slice of heaven in an otherwise bustling area of subdivisions, cars and strip malls. Almost as if a piece of the Everglades was magically transported to this spot and forgotten about in the mad rush to develop the surrounding area.

Many thanks to Mr.Campbell. I can tell his passion for this facility is heartfelt and it reflects in the smiles I saw from both staff and visitors who obviously reveled in the beauty of the surroundings. As I talked with Mr. Campbell, several Purple Martins flew over head. I really can’t wait to go back!

Blog & Photos Copyrighted 2009: S.Halpin/