Archive for the ‘Birdcam’ Category

Another Reason for Cats Indoors

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

I know I get a little “Soap Box-ish” when it comes to the American Bird Conservancy’s Cats Indoors campaign. This video is one of the reasons why. As a bird AND cat lover, I feel that I am 100% qualified to endorse ABC’s and the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (to name a couple) stand on domesticated cats being allowed to roam free. Check out this 32 second video to see why.

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, 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 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

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.

Purple Martin Scouts

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Among one of the most dearly held false hoods regarding purple martins, is the one of the infamous “scouts”. Long to be believed as birds sent ahead to gather intelligence, that then return to tell their flock to start migration back North, scouts are really just the first returning birds. Scouts is still the term we use, for these first arrivers and they are always ASY (After Second Year) birds who are more experienced and familiar with the instinctual urge to fly back North to nest. The PMCA (Purple Martin Conservation Association) has the best online tracking tool for landlords that scout reportwant to know how far purple martins are from them. One can see this scout  map at Another option is to Follow us  on TWITTER. We tweet all kinds of martin related info, pictures from our colony and more. You can also LIKE us on Facebook. Just look for PurpleMartins-R-Us and click “Like”.

Our colony has tons of eggs at a nest check yesterday and even 1 nest with 5 babies. They ranged in age from 3 days old to 1 day old and seem fat and healthy. I am sure these early nests will do well as the weather has been mild and even weekly rain. Though we aren’t getting as much rain as we should, we are not as dry as last year when we had big losses from a drought.

A quick note about our BirdCam. It is up. We do not, at this time, have sound and the nest cams are turned off, so that birds can nest. But it is the best we can do. Webcams are not our forte and this cam has been a huge expense for us. Not knowing what we are doing, we sought the help of PalmBeachGeek to get the one we have online. There is a limit to the number of people that can be watching the cams at any one time, so if it doesn’t work, keep trying. Also if it doesn’t work for you, send us a quick email letting us know what your problem is, what internet explorer you are using (Firefox, Internet Explorer,Chrome) and we will try to improve things as we work out the kinks.

Purple Martins Coming Home in Droves!

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

For some reason the purple martins this year to be a lot more vocal than usual. In past years they seem to trickle in a few here and there and then they keep a low profile. Staying away feeding for much of the day. Not wanting to draw too much attention while their numbers are low. This year seems a bit different. Maybe its because our colony here in Loxahatchee, Florida is now firmly established as we enter our 6th year, or perhaps its just the size of the colony, now offering over 45 compartments. It just seems like the birds are hanging around, chortling, sitting in the entrances of their gourds staking their claim. They were a few days late this year but they seem to have arrived in greater numbers. I counted 15 in the air but I am sure there were some in the gourds.

I have a few final finishing touches to complete to the colony site. Putting up 2″ x 4″ hardware cloth on the 2 aluminum martin houses on the MPP, is on the to-do list. Also changing out some access caps with the new Heavy Duty caps that won’t stretch and pop off. Also the BirdCam is being worked on and though it is proving to be a bit more troublesome this year, I am sure the live streaming cam will be up soon.

The MPP is a Multi Purpose Pole that lets you hang 2 houses on 1 pole and plus hang gourds below. The picture shows not only the MPP pole at our colony but the same pole we sell at our site, BTW. I added even more gourds to this set-up by adding a set of Universal Gourd Hanging Arms to the houses themselves. So The pole has 12 house compartments and 8 gourds for the martins to choose from. Though you could in theory add more gourds, I  usually don’t recommend going more than 18 compartments/gourds on any 1pole. Remember, the problem isn’t with the weight, per sea, but with the time it takes to check on so many compartments. Inevitably what happens is that you will end up not being able to check nests because of the variation in nest ages and then you have to worry about scaring babies that are close to fledge age. It can get a little tricky and if you don’t keep up on nest checks, you end up with a cluster! For those that want to offer houses and gourds and have limited backyard space, the MPP is a wonderful thing.

ASY’s Singing With Abandon

Friday, February 4th, 2011

The colony activity here in West Palm Beach has certainly kicked up a notch. The male purple martins are even heard singing while still in there gourds. I opened up the other gourd rack and filled them with pine straw. Artificial gourds should be filled with a few handfuls of pine straw to prevent them being unable to exit the slick plastic gourds. Even with the black traction strip in my Troyer Horizontal Gourds, they can be difficult, if not impossible to exit. So make sure you place some nesting material in those gourds. I know “some” ultra conservative birders may scoff at giving purple martins this help. They see it as unnecessary interference. But that thinking is flawed. It has nothing to do with altering nature but more to do with preventing a birds death by our hand.

The Purple Martin colonycam is up and averaging about 90% up-time.

WebCam up and Martins Arriving Almost Daily

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Yes, the Colonycam/webcam is up and is streaming the exterior view of a portion of our colony. I am NOT thrilled with the stream provider and my apologies for the annoying ads that pop up. Believe it or not, gets nothing for those ads. If I want to stream the webcam without the ads I have to fork over about $100 a month. So unless I win the lottery, that isn’t going to happen. I am investigating other ways to stream the cam but it’s all a learning process so I beg for your understanding and patience.

We are up to about 5 ASY purple martins here at our colony in Florida. The last few days had some cold temps in the 30’s at night and tonight and tomorrow will have strong rain showers with high winds.

I wanted to re-post one of my favorite posts regarding cold weather and supplemental feedings for those up north that will be getting martins soon. Since flying insects are pretty much dormant when temps dip below 40 degrees having supplemental feeding trays available can be just as welcome to purple martins as birdseed to cardinals.


Extended Cold Spells TROUBLE for Purple Martins

Though it may make a cute picture, the mix of purple martins and extended adverse weather spells almost certain death for our feathered friends. And by extended weather, we are only talking about 2 days or more. Knowing what you can do will help your colony survive these early spring cold snaps.

Adverse weather, to a purple martin, is 2 or more days of steady rain and/or wind and/or cold temperatures below 40F. Only one of these conditions will make it virtually impossible for a purple martin to find enough food to sustain itself.

Being strict aerial insectivores, purple martins have no recourse when it comes to extended weather issues. They can’t forage for food on the ground and when temperatures dip, flying insects are no where to be found. With our crazy weather patterns we have been having and severe snow storms that have it snowing as far south as Florida, it is important to know what you can do.

So what should you do? ACT FAST! Don’t wait for your birds to be too weak to fly before offering supplemental feeding. Purple martins have to be trained to accept our help as they do not recognize food left out for them. If you wait too long your entire ASY purple martin population can die from starvation in just a few short days.

Supplemental Feeding of Purple Martins 101

Q: What do you feed a purple martins?

A: Crickets are the first choice for beginners. Mealworms or Scrambled Eggs are good once they learn to accept what you offer. But these items must be prepared. Mealworms and crickets (if live) should be frozen -till dead, then thawed thoroughly. They can be soaked in water and drained before feeding. Eggs should be cooked using NO oil or butter of any type.

Q: How do you feed a purple martin?

A: Martins that have never accepted supplemental feedings have to be taught or conditioned to eat food we offer them. After a day or 2 of adverse weather, approach the colony slowly. Use a large plastic spoon and fling a cricket up in the air in the general direction of the martins, up over them…remember you aren’t trying to hit the martins with the food. You want them to see the food flying past them. Continue this for 10 to 15 minutes. Most folks report that by the end of that time one or two birds will try to catch what they see flying by and once one starts, others will follow.

Once they accept food from you, the crickets (mealworms or scrambled eggs) can be placed on an elevated platform feeder and they will eat it off of the platform.

Visit this link on Supplemental Feeding of Adult Purple Martins for more information.


Afternoon Storms and Brutal Heat

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

With the heat index in the 100’s the fierce thunderstorms are ALMOST welcome. I say almost because with each of these storms severe winds of upwards of 45 MPH that would last past sunset, have inflicted some damage.

The nest of mockingbirds right outside our garage was blown down and the 2 partially feathered nestlings had perished. The large Sabal Palms lost a few fronds and the seed pods that the mockingbirds had made their nest in was woefully inadequate for the punishing winds.

The purple martins hung on to their perches well into the night seemingly afraid to detach themselves. I suspect an attempt to find protection within their nests would have had them blown away at some point during the storm. Fortunately the storm died down and all seemed quite but the previous week had these storms coming in almost on a daily schedule.

The winds were no problem for the martin poles. So other than the mockingbird casualties, all is well. Unfortunately the same can not be said for the laptop which ran the colony cam, so no live web cam at the moment. A new laptop is on the want list…any one???

2009 Going Out as Purple Martins Come Home!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Scout reports are popping up on the west and also the east coast of Florida as the last few days of 2009 brings in the first of the purple martins for the 2010 season. As I read M.Dingman’s report of a ASY male purple martin singing over his empty backyard, I was reminded as I have reminded others via Twitter to get your housing up early. I will be working on my housing this weekend and heading my own advice, but one never knows how early the martins will come.

As of today there have been 6 reported purple martins returning home. All 6 in Florida from Naples to Punta Gorda, from Melbourne to Okeechobee (which is a stones throw from myself) So, the reality that I may be caught with my “houses down” is a real possibility. This also means that the live Birdcam will be going up very soon.

So get them houses and gourd racks up!!

In closing I want to thank all of you for continuing to follow this blog and reading about my colony. I hope 2010 brings you peace, prosperity and many many martins!

Runt Update- A Visit to Busch Wildlife Sanctuary

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

After a long evening of re-hydrating the purple martin nestling and then this morning continued Gatorade and crickets, the nestlings belly was much softer, poops were normal and most importantly-he was still alive.

All morning without any chirps, I was wondering if mom was anywhere around. Usually you would think that the nestling would give out a few chirps if he heard her. I did see a SY female coming to the porch twice in a 4 hour period. Once to drop off a large cicada on the outside porch. I wasn’t impressed with her efforts. At around noon I lowered the gourd rack and took out the 2 thin-est of the remaining 4. I left the 2 strongest nestlings which after careful aging, I determined them to be 22 days old. The runt definitely is feathered, for the most part, like a 16 day old. The 3 skinny ones then made a 20 minute ride to Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter after having a drink of gatorade.

I met David Hitzig, the executive director of the facility. It was great to finally visit this center that I had heard about but never visited. As you may know from previous posts, I had always used Folke Peterson, which is only a few minutes away, but now that they are closing (due to financial problems) this was a wonderful opportunity to make the drive. Had I known what a full service, top notch facility it is, I would have come sooner. I brought the family and my 2 boys were kept happy and amazed at the animals including Florida Panthers, Deer, foxes, birds of prey and every sort of native Florida wildlife. I meanwhile spoke with David.

He is astute and quite aware of the dilemma these birds find themselves in. Being so late in the season, and no other nests that could foster them, the best place for them is with momma. As negligent as she is, their best hope is to fledge with her. Without the post fledging care that they will receive, their chances are dismal and I know it. My fear is that the runt will be so malnourished, that he would die or be so far behind in growth that he would be left behind or easy pickings for a predator. David saw to it that the birds received a fluid injection to hydrate them quickly. They also got a big meal of juicy live crickets and meal worms before I took them home. Now that the runts belly was softer and poop was normal, I feel much more comfortable returning him to the nest with a day of rescue feedings under his belt.

The 3 were very active on the drive home and after a quick stop at the pet store to by a dozen live crickets, I gave them one last drink of Gatorade and belly full of food. I lowered the rack and placed them back in the nest after checking the 2 much heavier nestlings.

I did see the mom flying about and I think I know what is going on. Before returning the nestlings I heard her calling out to the nestlings with her chew chew call. A call I hear the parents make when they are trying to coax them out of the nests to fledge. That would explain her leaving the food on the outside porch. She is trying to lure them out so they will fledge. Unfortunately she is inexperienced and like most birds, has no access to a calendar. She has no idea that feathered as they are the birds are just not ready to fledge. The runt is so under feathered that it would perish for sure if it didn’t die from the malnourishment first.

The nestcam is now on gourd #6 and my eye is fixed on the action.

Many thanks to Mr. David Hirtzig and to Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. I will be sending in a donation to this fine facility and coming back again soon.

© 2009 S.Halpin /

The Davie Roost has MOVED!

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Apparently the raccoon predation was just too much for the purple martins at the Davie Road Racetrac gas station. They are no longer roosting at that site. I went on Friday night and the few purple martins that flew over head, never came down to the trees. The dead martins on the ground were still there, but no fresh kills. Apparently the roost was abandoned shortly after my visit on Saturday June 13.

Fortunately for all us purple martin lovers, a fellow PMCA forumite “Stingray” was shopping in the area and happened upon the new roost location. It is now located at the “Tower Shops” just South of 595 on the East side of University Drive, in the same plaza as Home Depot. The chances of finding the new roost location is almost a miracle in my book and the disappointment I felt this Friday is now replaced with excitement again. woo hoo! I can’t wait to go and see the new spot. I hope the folks at the Tower Shops greet the purple martins with the same welcome attitude that they enjoyed at Racetrac Gas station. The potential for a negative response is high considering there is no overhead cover to protect any shoppers from the rain of bird poop that they will be experiencing.

I have been ridiculously busy trying to prepare an article for you on emergency care of purple martins…I should say, first responder care of purple martins. I went to Folke Peterson Wildlife Center on Friday and met another one of their wonderful Veterinary Technicians, Faith, who let me photograph the HY purple martin while he was force fed. He is still not accepting food from the hemostats and his outlook is poor. Other than the fact that he is being force fed three times a day and can not fly, he appears calm and comfortable. A perfect gentleman.

Other interesting finds at the Wildlife Center was a Chimney Swift nestling that was brought in recently. Eyes shut and chattering loudly, the little nestling looked so out of place in his box. My heart bleeds for this little guy. For great information on Chimney Swifts and what you can do to help these birds visit  I was shocked to find out that contrary to what I had read on the swifts breeding range, South Florida, the West Palm area to be exact, has a nice little colony of swifts that live out my way. I am eager to convince my husband of the need to put up a Chimney Swift tower! I am so excited for this project for next year. Can you imagine THAT on a webcam?

Another interesting patient at Folke Peterson was a juvenile NightHawk. Which is quite the coincidence considering that I recently wrote a blog entry about these illusive birds that I NEVER thought I would see so close. Like a pet rock, it sat in its cage with its big eyes staring back at me. A curious bird and not very bird looking at all, up close. Faith told me of the odds against rehabilitating this bird and all birds that are strict aerial insectivores. A diet that is never fully able to be replicated, humans can only come up with a fair approximation of the dietary needs of such birds. I hope this one makes it too.


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