Archive for the ‘Daily reflections’ Category

Purple Martins: Wild bird or Pet?

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Sharon Stiteler from has done a great job bringing birding to masses of people. I mean let’s face it, she is the Oprah Winfrey of Bird Bloggers. Her claim that she is  showing the world that “you can be a birder without being a geek” is very true. Recently she posted a blog post about my favorite bird (and yours) Purple Martins on

Usually I enjoy her writing immensely, but while reading this one I found myself at first feeling defensive of my hobby but then quite protective of my “pets”.

I responded to her blog post,

The only part I don’t agree with is about how European settlers began this birds dependence on humans. It has been documented that Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians would hang up dried gourds for these birds and according to the Purple Martin Conservation Association, the purple martin has undergone in the last several hundred years, a tradition shift where they no longer recognize natural tree snags as nest sites. Are they pets? I understand you argument there, but as a purple martin landlord I take pride in keeping this bird safely off the endangered species list, which according to the PMCA, would probably be the case had humans not taken to putting up housing.

Us landlords are familiar with the story of the history of Purple Martins. For those that don’t know the history of purple martins a great article is at the PMCA website.

Though Sharon sees our meddling in the affairs of purple martins as interfering with natural selection, I see it as a continuing of a symbiotic relationship with these birds that gave up their natural ways to help us. Though we don’t need them to warn us of vultures or birds of prey that are trying to eat Buffalo meat hung up to dry, or to chase crows from crop fields or even as natural flying insect control anymore; I find it comforting to know that I am fulfilling the promise made by those Native Americans so many years ago. That though we, as the human race, may have outlived the usefulness of Purple Martins in a practical sense, that we will stand by what we began.

Maybe Ms. Stiteler will reconsider her stance?

It Takes All Types

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

I suppose, talking to avid purple martin lovers all day, I tend to forget that some folks hate birds. I am sure these are the same people that move next to a garbage dump and then complain about the smell. But it is what people do with that hatred that has me laughing today.

I received a call a couple of days ago, from what I assumed was a customer. The lady proceeded to tell me that it was not she but a neighbor that has “many” purple martins. She was calling from North Carolina (I am in Florida) to complain about her neighbors birds and how their chirping is keeping her and her husband up all night. I was confused…did she want to join in the purple martin madness and join her neighbor in hosting martins? I mean, geez, what would you be calling a retailer to complain (long distance) about something that you should walk next door to talk about? I liken it to me calling up Walmart to complain about my neighbors affinity for “Made in China” clothing. Are you kidding?

Well, I patiently and gently explained how the birds, having just returned and in overdrive breeding mode are very happy to be home and the males are so eager that they are often heard singing in their nests to their mates. I assured her that if they were the same as my birds, all would be quite within a week or two when eggs start getting laid. As the males move from Casanova mode to daddy mode, they will quiet down.

The lady expressed, “Yeah, I remember last year they did this too.”

I thought, “Glad you didn’t call me last year.”

Close Encounter of the Sandhill Kind

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

The area I live in is pretty rural and though my yard isn’t blessed with any wide variety of birds, I live within a short drive to several wetland conservation areas that are teaming with life. The houses that are closer to these areas get many visitors and some of those folks insist on feeding these glorious animals. I am not too crazy about it.

Baby Sandhill cranes are flightless for quite some time and the parents are not so bright. Every year there have been several chicks either hit by cars or mauled by dogs. My theory is let them stay wild and do not put food out for them.
Though this may sound odd coming from a person that puts up purple martin houses and gourds every year, I think that these Sandhill cranes do much better being afraid of us.

On this day 5 Sandhill cranes were just a few feet from the window of my car. I happened to have my camera and this is one of the shots I got. They were eating corn from a plate left out for them by well meaning humans. Remember, there are people that hunt Sandhill cranes. Why would we want them to trust us?

Tucking In My Martins

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

My favorite thing to do is tuck in my martins. I leave the children inside with my spouse, take a coffee (or some other beverage) out on the back patio, and enjoy the show. My purple martins, 35+ at this point, weave an invisible quilt of flight and song. An unseen drain swirls them in closer and tighter until they all swoosh into their gourds in a mad dash to escape one darkness for another.

Today a young male Starling made a home of the repeating nestbox trap. One starling down…200 Million to go.

Last night an American Kestral gave a half hearted attempt at what I can only assume was harassment. I could almost hear the martin laugh. Though speedy his attempt was awkward and clumsy and he flew off in disgust with himself. Maybe his eyes were bigger than his stomach as I am not sure what he would have done if he had caught a martin.

Stand Up Against TNR (Trap Neuter Release) of Cats

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

I found this awesome article by Rob Fergus, co-author of The Purple Martin that states the new aggressive stance against TNR programs by 10 conservation biologists in the latest issue of the journal Conservation Biology. Basically urging conservation biologists to take a strong stand against the establishment and maintenance of feral cat colonies (Trap-Neuter-Return (or Release) programs.
Read portions of the article HERE.

It is good to see conservationists finally sounding the trumpet and trying to take on some of these groups that cause more harm with their good intentions.

So what can you do to protect the birds in YOUR yard from cats while the politicians, PETA and others hack it out? Here are a few options.

cat trap

You can trap them yourself. Just minus the”Neuter and Release” part of the equation. Your neighbors may not appreciate you trapping “Fluffy”,  so this works better with feral cats. However nothing says keep your cat off my property better than a visit to the pound. The Collapsible Raccoon Trap is great for trapping cats.

You can discourage them from visiting your yard by making it cat unfriendly. Everyone knows that cats HATE water, so take advantage of that with this neighbor friendly alternative. The ScareCrow Motion Activated sprinkler shoots water out at the unsuspecting feline when the little darling decides to take a stroll through your herb garden to spread its Toxoplasmosis.

angry-dogYou can buy a dog that hates cats. So you may run into other problems like food and vet bills but still, it IS an option.

My Disclaimer: Please no hate mail. I actually am a cat lover…an indoor cat lover and my old cat “Elvis” was an indoor cat until the day he passed away at the age of 11. I just so happen to also be a bird lover and a conservationist. The definition of a Conservationist is “someone who works to protect the environment from destruction.” And I think studies have pretty much proved that the domestic cat is pretty destructive to wild NATIVE birds…ie: the environment. So thanks for your understanding.

Happy New Year and a Baby Gouldian Update

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

The new year came in with a cold spell that makes it easy to put off putting up my purple martin house and gourd rack. But up they must go. As of last check, there are 11 purple martin sightings across Florida and several here on the East coast. So today, despite the temperatures hovering in the 40’s, I was outside braving hypothermia to at least get things organized. The housing is still not up but the gourds are laying out on the grass and the racks are oiled and ready. Pine straw awaits patiently, having been lovingly raked up by my husband. And hopefully tomorrow will see most of the work done.

I can’t wait to see the skies above my house filled with swirling and twirling purple martins and my ears with their chortles and song.

handfed gould babyBy popular request I am updating those interested in the progress of the 3 baby gouldians that I hand fed. From hatching. All 3 are doing great. There was in fact 2 boys and 1 girl as I had thought and the youngest boy will still land on my finger and perch a bit before fluttering around the room. His name is baby and he along with his brother and sister will probably remain with me.
Though the other two will come up to me and occasionally play with my fingers they are pretty much back to being birds and have no interest in being petted or played with. As it should be, but still…Baby’s friendliness to me touches my heart and I find myself especially fond of him. His attempts at song are still quite pathetic and they are all undergoing a molt so we will see how they feather in. “Baby” will most likely be a “red headed normal” for any familiar with gouldian genetics but he will be split to white breast as will his sister. His brother is a dilute but otherwise the same.

The Three Amigo’s

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Gouldian Finch Update

I know this is a purple martin blog…but I want to announce that my 3 little baby gouldians have fledged. The work isn’t over and we are not out of the woods yet but it sure looks bright out!

They fly out to be fed and are still prone to flying behind the furniture but they come out when I call and seem to like landing on my head. THAT part I can do without but you try explaining that to those cute little faces.

As my boys say, “Awwww!”

What is a Blog?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Between my baby birds and visiting family, I am at my wits end. Last night I actually slept 4 hours straight. With family now gone I can relax a little and enjoy the 4 hour breaks in feedings during the night.
As for purple martins, my gourds are now clean and bagged up. The house is scrubbed and plugged. Only a few minor details left in the long overdue fall clean up.

I was talking to someone the other day and I was telling them why I write a blog. I guess it is important to first define a blog.

According to, A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. Your blog is whatever you want it to be.

And thus my blog is just that. Mainly, the daily comings and goings of my purple martin colony. In the off season I ramble, as I am now. About my observations, birding topics and other nature related commentaries. I never proclaim myself an expert on purple martins. On the contrary, according to my “About Me” page I state, “I am NOT a Purple Martin expert, nor am I a biologist, zoologist, or ornithologist. I am a mom, a registered nurse, blogger, a professional artist and a Purple Martin Landlord. I have some knowledge about Purple Martins and hope you gather some knowledge about them too.”

So my thanks to you for reading my humble opinions, observations and thoughts. Isn’t the internet great?

In a Purple Martin Drought, I Turn on the Sprinklers

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

There is no way to deny that Autumn is upon us. Some stores even are putting up Christmas decorations. Though we are in the midst of our yearly purple martin drought, I will artificially slake my thirst for purple martins. “How”, you may ask? The only way I know how…paint. I have been hard at work painting some new pieces. I hope you enjoy the first. Please pardon some of the color rendering, the scan does not do justice to the blue sky of the ends up looking white. Many watercolors can not be accurately captured and duplicated on the internet.

"Purple Martin Fledge Day"

I have been looking around the internet and found a great little nature blog called “Journals of an Amateur Naturalist” with plenty about the authors well managed purple martin colony. Check it out if you get a chance.

Where Did Purple Martins Get The Name “Martin”

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Today someone on the PMCA forum asked an interesting question that I thought some of you might find interesting.

How Did Martins Get Named Martins? I know there are other martin species, but does anyone know the origin of the name?

So I share…

“The term MARTIN is a proper name in French and derives from the the Latin “Mars,” the Roman God of War. The diminutive “ten” or “tin” is a pet name, leading to speculation that “little mars” refers to the first month of the yearly calendar-the warring season, when first so-called scouts arrive in the US.”
from The Purple Martin by Robin Doughty and Rob Fergus

On a personal note, I like to think of them as being quite “war-like” when they spot an intruder.