Archive for the ‘Birdcam’ Category

Purple Martin: CSI

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

I have prided myself in the attention I give my birds. Yes, I know, the Purple Martins are not truly mine but the care I lavish on them is appreciated by them. The trust they show me as I hoist the gourd racks up or down and they sit and wait patiently with bugs in their mouths. Waiting to take them into their gourds to feed hungry nestlings. Imagine my chagrin when over the past week or so an ASY male is dive bombing my head relentlessly. Within inches he strafes my head to the point where I fear for my life…or at least my eyesight. Going to the mailbox which is at the opposite side of a acre + lot even rankles him. What could have upset him so much to the point of this hatred he apparently has for me? Forever the OCD’er that I am, I have thought of a few scenarios.

First, I think this male may be the same male from the natural gourd that was eaten by the red corn snake several weeks ago. There are 2 new nests with nestlings that hatched in the last week and the male may well be one of those daddy’s. Could the ASY male that lost his family just be blaming me for his misfortune? The male survived that attack and definitely saw me removing both the snake and the one last remaining dead nestling from that gourd. Could he be associating the tragedy with me as I was the last one seen at the scene of the crime?

Perhaps it is a totally different male from one of the other new nests. There is a new nest of 5 eggs that on the last nest check (May 28) I found one of the eggs had been broken. Could have been the work of a clumsy fledgling. They seem to be going in and out of nest indiscriminately and getting their tails beat in the process. Maybe the male saw me remove this broken egg from the nest? I have heard that one should shield any dead young and/or eggs from the sight of other martins so to not upset them. Though I generally try to do this, there are times when I am sure some birds may see what is going on.

In short, I am not sure what to do other than wear protective head gear and eyewear whenever I am outside. Though I doubt there is any available treatment for my wounded pride.
Nestcam update. The 5 nestlings on the Nestcam are due to fledge as early as June 2. You can watch them leave gourd #4 on the Colonycam. After they fledge I will move the camera to a gourd on the lettered rack and at that time I may move the main Colonycam so that the Sunset Inn house and lettered rack are in view.

Nestcheck for 5/28

Young in nests remaining:  46

Eggs in nests remaining:   27

Total fledged to date:  66

©2009 S.Halpin/


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

Where is the Rain?

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

2 days of pregnant clouds and not a drop of water. The neighborhood ponds are drying up and the wetlands at some of the areas of Grassy Waters Preserve look more like scrub land than swamp. For hours the sky was black and thunder could be heard in the distance. The clouds swirled but not a drop fell here.

 It seems like there has been a bustle of morning hour activity at the purple martin housing ever since the babies have started fledging last week. I am not sure if some of the activity is from other area colonies or my own purple martins. They swoop in with zest and proceed to make themselves quite the nuisance. Peeking in compartments, being scolded fiercely by protective parents, vocal and joyful in both song and flight they are everything that is fun to watch about purple martins. Though a bit mischievous, I have witnessed no serious fighting.

The nestlings on the nestcamare big and ready to go at any time. They are busy flapping about in the gourd, stretching and preening their new flight feathers. Preparing themselves for a maiden flight. There is always at least one with its head looking out the front of the gourd and the others stuck inside looking about or napping. Today they are 26 days old and they are officially old enough to fledge at any moment. The mother comes to the opening and perches for some time often bringing no food, which signals that they are indeed ready. The parents will decrease feeding as fledging approaches. This technique serves 2 purposes. First, it decreases the attractiveness of the nest with its “room service” so that the babies will want to come out to feed. Secondly, to decrease their weight which can be more than an adults. Talk about baby fat! Try getting airborne with all that extra weight though.

 I am still postponing nestchecks on this rack due to the amount of babies ready to fledge and I have been unable to do a nestcheck on the other 2 units due to the thunder.

European Starling fledglings have come around, chaperoned by an adult. One was as close as a foot from the repeating S&S nestbox trap but never landed on the trap itself. Of course I was seriously disappointed and it reminded me that I must go back to Green Cay Nature Center to further observe the gourd rack there. My terrible luck with trapping this year along with the population explosion locally, has brought me to a new level of sadness for our native birds.

What’s Up?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

The purple martin nestlings are beginning to fledge in the numbered gourd rack and I have suspended nest checks on that rack until probably Saturday. Come Monday there will be another 4 nests getting close to fledging, that I will again suspend nest checks. All this to avoid the dreaded premature fledge. I will do a partial check tomorrow on the house and the lettered gourd rack and I will try to move the camera so that you can see a new vantage point of the colony.

As my nests get ready to fledge this also means that the colony will get a lot busier with visiting martins from the surrounding area coming over for a visit. It should be fun to watch as the youngsters, still unsure with their landing technique try to land on the housing. It’s always worth a laugh. It also means that the time is drawing closer for the birds to begin gathering at their premigratory roosts. But I won’t let myself think of that. There are still plenty of babies yet to fledge.

For local readers of my blog, I hope I see you on Friday and Saturday at Folke Peterson Wildlife Center for their “Rescue Fest”. The center is trying to raise funds in this challenging economic times and is having a grand shindig for the family. Friday they will be having a silent auction, live music, comedians and Saturday will be the fun stuff for kids. All proceeds directly benefit the center and the animals that they care for. I will be giving a presentation on Purple Martins on Saturday at 1:00PM and hope to meet some of you in person.

Last Check for a While

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

I did the last nest check yesterday that will be done for a while on the gourd rack that is on the birdcam/colonycam. The nestlings in gourd #9 are now 28 days old and they are looking like they could go at any time.  To prevent premature fledging after I lowered the rack (oh so quietly) I placed a sock in the gourd opening. I had tied a string to the sock so after the check was doen and the gourd rack raised up, I could gently pull on the string to remove the sock. All went well on the check and the babies looked wonderful. No bugs, fat and lean with hints of blue showing on their fresh new feathers. The next time I see them, in early 2010, they will be sun-bleached brown.  

There are at least 5 nests that seem to be abandoned. There are 3 scenarios I believe could be at play for this situation. It could be a case of egg dumping or it could be young inexperienced SY’s playing house or lastly, drought affecting food supply thus reducing clutch rates. Whatever the case may be, I have come to terms with my goal of reaching the magical 100 mark having to wait till next year.bottom view of S&K guard

No more snake attacks and the bird/snake netting along with the spray foam in the holes of the S&K predator pole guard will let me sleep at night. In the picture you can see the white dried foam coming out of the holes in the guard that allowed the snake to pass through. The foam is commonly found in hardware stores and a common brand name is “Great Stuff insulating foam sealant” or “Handi-foam”. It actually comes in handy for several things and I have heard of some folks using it to modify cheap plastic purple martin houses to increase the insulation and help keep internal temps comfortable. One thing I should mention to those considering an inexpensive purple martin house. Consider the amount of effort you will put into the house modifying it and the life expectancy of the house itself. If you expect to get more than a handful of seasons out of the house you may very well be overly optimistic. Sun and UV rays can change plastic and you may notice discoloration or loss of opacity and brittleness. Though some may disagree, more light means more heat and it is generally agreed upon that darker is better, when it comes to the interior of a purple martin house. The plastic can always be painted with a product like Fusion paint for plastic but again, now you are adding your time and money into the upkeep. My point? Always consider these factors when deciding what kind of Purple Martin house you want to buy. Want to read more about deciding on a purple martin house? Click here for an article on “what you will need” which talks about all the different types of housing, pros and cons to help you decide.

Nest check results for 5/1/09

Total eggs:  57       Total young:   59        Total nests:   26


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/

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.

Pipping Egg Passes Away

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Today brought some much needed rain and another nest check. The South Florida drought is again becoming more threatening, but today’s passing showers brought a brief respite. The birds enjoyed the morning shower, though brief, with zealous preening and a social hour. The skies cleared for the early afternoon only to darken again around 5pm and then finally open up for another soaking before dusk. The skies remained solemn as darkness fell and the birds retired quietly for the night.

The nest check started around 4:30 on the gourd rack and house that is off camera. My 2 young children were taking a nap (YEAH!) and I was in checking on them frequently. I finally got to the gourd rack on the webcam right around 5 and the wind was starting to gust.

As I now have 31 compartments, I will post total numbers unless something of interest needs to be posted.

Total eggs: 65 Total young: 13

The two nests in the aluminum house have 6 eggs and 5 eggs, Numbered rack has only one troyer with no eggs. I added 2 more Troyers to the Lettered gourd rack and all the other gourds seem to be occupied but the egg laying has slowed to a crawl. Of the 10 gourds on this rack only 2 have eggs and only 1 egg in one and 2 in the other. I wonder if the dry weather is a form of natural birth control for the martins?

The pipping egg, that I had posted about recently had been in gourd #3. Among the first of this years babies to hatch, these nestlings are between 5 and 6 days old. I counted and there were only 4 of them. I was excited to meet the little nestling that would be some 2 days younger than his nest mates. I was curious to see how he would be fairing as the ‘runt of the litter’. I lifted a few of the fat little bodies out of the way and found the egg buried underneath them. The same as I had left it, with the hopeful hole pecked perfectly in the center of the egg. A small beak just below…only dead. Oh how sad. How close this baby had been to the world. What could have happened? I am guilt stricken.

This brings up an important point about pipping eggs that some may not be aware of.

There are 3 things that can cause a pipped egg to die without hatching.

  1. Humidity too high
  2. Humidity too low
  3. Poor or bad circulation of air

When an egg is pipping the amount of humidity or moisture in the air is critical. Being a wild bird, the humidity level in the nest is not something that we can monitor or adjust for. The birds know what they are doing. Some people have said that perhaps that is why green leaves are brought into the nest. It is one of those things that God endows his creatures with an inner knowledge that man, in all our sophistication, may never truly understand. When it comes to poultry, it is commonly understood that slightly too high humidity can drown a nestling. And humidity just a tad too low can cause the membranes to stick around the nose and basically suffocate the nestling.

The third and last cause, improper or poor air flow/circulation may well have been the likely culprit in this case. Nestlings can pip fast or slow and they do it in their own time. When it comes to poultry a chick can take an hour or a day…it’s really up to the bird. So the fact that I did not see movement was not a concern but, It may well have been dead when I found it initially. We also have to consider that the other nestlings were being fed. The nestlings at 2 days old were already more than twice the size of the egg. They were mobile and wiggling around the nest to some extent. Raising their heads and instinctively positioning themselves in the nest. All it would have taken is one of the nestlings to rest its head over the small hole or for the moving babies to cause the egg to roll over enough to suffocate the nestling inside. I took care when putting the egg back in the nest to position it as I had found it…pip up and small side down. But I should have looked at the egg more carefully, to in fact confirm movement. I should not have assumed that the nestling was alive and well. Maybe in placing it back in the nest after picking up and replacing nest mates, that its ideal spot was disturbed and it was then more likely to roll to the side-sealing its fate? I will never know. Fortunately the 4 other nestlings are fat and oblivious to their brother (or sisters) demise. It’s a hard life-a birds life. Maybe that is why we work so hard to make the little parts we can easier for our martins. As you can see by the post mortem photo, that the nestling appears asleep and peaceful. Its little beak was through the inner membranes.

Speaking of hatching. The eggs in gourd #11 are due to hatch as of Wednesday April 15. So keep an eye out for more pipping and cross your fingers! Watch them on ournestcam, of course.

Other good news is the gourd on the Shepard’s hook now has 5 eggs. I wonder how those babies will feel about me mowing the grass and peeking in as I drive by?

Photos and Blog contents © 2009 S.Halpin/

April Fools Nest Check

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

I know, I am a little late posting these last nest check results. But here they are:

Gourd #2 3 eggs
Gourd #3 5 eggs
Gourd #6 6 eggs
Gourd #7 4 eggs
Gourd #9 5 eggs
Gourd #10 3 eggs
Gourd #11 4 eggs
Gourd #12 3 eggs
For a grand total of 33 eggs in 8 gourds. All ASY pairs, all tunneled Troyer horizontal gourds.

I was UNABLE to check the Aluminum Sunset Inn house. The telescopic pole that I have it on is apparently stuck. It is a triangular pole (that I do not sell) and the feeder tray that it came with consistently allows egg shells from the feeder to slide down the pole and make a nightmare of a time for me. This is the last season with this pole and I am sorry that I did not replace it sooner.

I had previously modified the feeder tray with a plastic hole plug that I had cut the bottom off of. In essence it was like the bottom of a plastic cup…but without the bottom. I sealed it to the tray so that when it rains the contents of the tray do not wash down the center of the pole as it did seasons past- an obvious design flaw. Either the tray should have been designed so that the contents wash to the outer edges vs the center. But this is proof of several things, to me. One being that “shotgun” product design often comes up with many designs. Some good some not so good. More importantly “shotgun” designing has unpleasant side effects to the end consumer when the design is not properly and adequately field tested. I will have to get my husband to help me attempt to unstick the pole and then put caulk around the center hole.

There is still an occasional bird or two sleeping on the porch of the house. Last night it was an ASY male. I have seen several birds at last light struggling from compartment to compartment, trying to find an empty room. I have seen 1 or two birds fly off at dark. I am suspecting that they leave to roost in a tree or another house but continue to try to find room here.

I have visited several nearby houses that I have found on my travels and all still appear empty, as their usual. All these houses have potential but are just located improperly. IE: too close to trees. I have left almost 2 dozen leaflets on local properties with information on Purple Martins for these landlords. To date I have heard back from 3 people and have personally spoken with 2 more. The 2 people I spoke with tell me that they have martins return yearly. Some of the houses I have found have no “proof of life” at least the feathered kind.

Also I have finally moved the nest cam to gourd #11. I will later attempt to point the cam so that you can actually see eggs. But I do believe she has started incubating at least 4 eggs!

 (c) Blog contents copyright 2009 S.Halpin/

Nest Check and Check THIS out!

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Yesterday was another nest check here at my humble Purple Martin Colony. As of now I have 19 gourds offered and 6 house compartments. I am awaiting a shipment of a half dozen gourds to fill my new rack that has only 5 gourds on it at this time. I do believe there are birds sleeping in every compartment INCLUDING gourd #4 which has the nest cam. As you may remember, the nest cam was online briefly but the infrared light spooked the pair that was in the gourd out to another. The gourd has been the subject of a lot of attention from an ASY pair. Though hesitant for a few days, the pair does appear to be spending a lot of time in and out of the gourd. But before I get carried away with details, here are the results of the nest check.

The exact numbers so far.

Gourd #3 with 5 eggs

Gourd #6 with 3 eggs

Gourd # 7  with 4 eggs

Gourd #9 with 5 eggs

Gourd #11 with 1 egg

For a total of 18 eggs

All Troyer horizontal tunneled (SREH) gourds and all ASY pairs.

On the next nest check which should be on Tuesday, I will switch the nestcam to gourd #11. If there are more eggs in that nest (which I don’t see why there would not be) I will change the camera over to that gourd. Be on the look out for that.

The SY males are causing quite the ruckus and I do believe there may be a shortage of rooms. On several nights I have seen a Purple Martin sleeping on the porch of the Sunset Inn Aluminum house. At first I thought it may be the same male that slept on the porch all season last year. But a few nights ago it was NOT a male but a female or perhaps a SY male on the same porch. Could it be that there are no vacancies and the porch is all that is left? Could it be a fool hardy martin enjoying the outdoor breeze? I am not sure but trust me when I express my worry over these birds. All hours of the night I hear them chirping. At 3 AM I have been hearing a male singing in one of the gourds in pitch black. Are they crazy? I know the waterfall on the pool is running all night to mask their noise but I will soon turn on the radio outside to mask their chattering. Why don’t they just hang a free dinner sign?

So to summarize; come Tuesday, look for a relaunch of the nestcam and another nest check. If you follow me on Twitter I try to post Tweets on when I will be doing the nest check. I lower the camera and you can watch me live, doing a Purple Martin Nest Check. It may come in useful for those that have never done a check and may be nervous about “messing with the birds.”

On a side note; I wanted to announce the return of feather art to our site.

 3 gorgeous pieces of handpainted feather art. They are signed and numbered by the artist, D.L.Miller. I requested that these 3 pieces be very different and I do believe they are outstanding.


So until Tuesday, keep an eye out for hawks and keep it Purple!

 (c) Blog contents copyright 2009 S.Halpin/

Purple Martin Nest Cam is ONLINE!

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Copyright: S.Halpin/

Don’t get me wrong. My excitement is tempered with a healthy dose of reality. The nestcam is using (thank you tech support) and the birdcam is using I welcome any and all feedback on which you like better. Both insert the most annoying ads that I do NOT profit from. So please, no hate mail. The weight of the camera housing makes the gourd list to the side a bit but not too bad. Gourd #4 was the winner of the online poll to determine which gourd would get the camera first. The Nestcam seems to kick off a bit more frequently which requires me to focus a fair bit of my OCD tendencies to checking the 2 spare computers Internet connection. My husband is at the end of his patience…I think. I only know I would be. I am sure he wonders when he will get me back from the birds and is counting the days until the season is over.

This has been a very busy year. Between the websites and all that entails and my outreach efforts, I have been talking, thinking, and breathing purple.

I don’t know if I mentioned the Purple Martin presentation I gave at Green Cay Nature Center a few weeks ago. There were some 20 + people there and many questions were asked. I brought a selection of gourds and tried to “make some converts”. I have also been sending out flyer’s to local residences that have purple martin houses in their backyards.

My martins appear very happy and are quite loud. The pool water feature runs 24/7 to mask any noise that may attract Owls. We added the sheet metal to the pine tree under the Owls nest box and hope that helps to keep them safe from raccoons. But back to the martins, I need to hang more gourds to accommodate the birds that have yet to arrive. I still have yet to see a SY.

On today’s nest check I noticed that most of the gourds had either pine bark or leaves brought in and all seem used. Spotless clean of course but all but 1 or 2 have perfectly shaped nest bowls swirled like soft serve ice cream.

I hope you all enjoy the nest cam and bird cam and let me know what you think.