Posts Tagged ‘snake’

Snakes in the Grass

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

After my snake debacle some weeks ago, the last thing I want to deal with are snakes in my yard. Yes, I know they are there. Yes, I know they serve a critical and important role in the food chain. I just am still a bit irritated at the red corn snake that got past my predator guard and ate 5 beautiful little featherless baby purple martins. Read the post here.

As I was looking outside I saw a large 4 foot black racer (I call them-no idea as to the sp. name) browsing my patio. It was “looking” in the sliding glass doors and peacefully gliding along. Perhaps due to my husbands mowing of the grass this weekend or the heavy rains that have been a daily occurrence, the snake was making itself quite at home. I was shocked as the snake was by far taller than my sons. I ran outside with a broom and managed to corral the snake under a bucket. Not sure what I was going to do with it, I placed a weight on top and collapsed on the sofa to the delight of my children who had a million questions as to everything. After catching my breathe I called my husband to tell him of my adventure and as I was talking to him a SECOND black snake crawled across the patio. “How did he get out from under that bucket?” was the only question that entered my head as I hung up the phone (without saying bye) and ran out, again with the broom to corral the snake. The snake made a much speedier exit than I made my entrance and I was left empty handed. How did he get out? I lifted the bucket partially only to see the black tail of the snake still under the bucket. The boys are now convinced that the back patio is a snake thruway and I almost feel I am in 100% agreement.

2 snakes in less than 20 minutes. What is going on. I watched the purple martin housing for some 15 minutes to see if anything was out of the ordinary. All seemed normal. The lettered gourd rack seems to attract an abundance of SY’s and HY’s fighting. The numbered gourd rack seems to be the ASY’s favorite and is a much calmer place to be. Gourd #6 must have newly hatched babies as a ASY male and female are busy feeding. A late clutch for sure. I finally relaxed and played with my boys.

About 2 hours later I look out the sliding glass door and again, what do I see??? Yes, ANOTHER large black snake. Now it is getting creepy. Well, fast forward through the broom, roundup and bucket and I now have 2 snakes in a plastic bag…very much alive and well. As soon as my husband came home I took a short drive about 3/4 of a mile down the road and released them.

Yeah, live and let live…just not in my yard anymore.

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

Post Traumatic Snake Disorder

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

A big thank you to those that emailed me about my recent snake attack. I should apologize to the snake that I vanquished to the City dump.

Like I told Dave J, I know better than to kill the snake. It was a case of projection- at anger towards myself. So much for “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” I doubt I will now start killing every snake I see. I usually catch them and then hold them for my 2 kids to touch and squeal over. Also in retrospect, should have known the snake must have gone partway up that pole before, as the last time I did a check there were none of the small tree frogs that like to sleep under the guard during the day.

S&K predator guardRegarding the inadequate S&K predator guard on one of the last remnants of S&K at my site; I sprayed foam insulation into the openings on the adaptor to close the passageway the snake must have used. I also placed snake netting below. In the pic you can see the gap that is formed when the circular opening of the guard is attached to the triangular pole adaptor that is underneath. Not only is their a gap there but then there are several small openings that are part of the design of the adaptor itself. The adaptor is actually the same piece that is used as one of the older S&K gourd racks. When in use as a gourd rack the rods that the gourds are hung on go through these openings. When used as an adaptor for the guards, there is nothing to block these openings and a small snake can pass through. As my experience has shown a small snake can easily kill just as effectively as a large snake.

when used as a gourd rack

when used as a gourd rack

 The spray foam insulation seems to have closed off these openings and be an easy fix. Also snake netting is in place anyway. 

A big thanks to Bob n Jo in Iowa, for letting me place a link to their FREE Purple Martin Bird House on my other website, It is a 7 page PDF plans to construct chalet style houses out of insulation foam board. If any of you complete this project, I would love to hear about it.

©2009 Blog contents S.Halpin/

Snake in the Gourd!

Monday, April 27th, 2009

While we as Purple Martin Landlords can try to provide the safest possible nesting environment for our birds, NO colony is immune from tragedy. Today was a case in point.

As scheduled I performed a routine nest check. Since my children are inside my house napping. I usually break the nest check up. I do one rack then go inside and check on my kids, if all is quiet I go do the next. By around 4:30 this afternoon I was only able to do the 2 gourd racks. I could not get to the telescopic pole that has the house on it. Later, when my husband arrived, after dinner, I finally decided to go ahead and complete the nest check. I thought it would just be better to keep all 3 housing units on the same schedule. Well, thank God for that. Tragedy had struck!

No other animal is more associated with the devil than snakes. Having been a snake owner at one time in my life, I can understand the fascination with them. They are eating machines. What other animal is so adept at finding, killing and consuming its prey, that it could fore go hands and feet? So at about 7:30PM, I was free to do the nest check. Usually I would never do a check so late in the evening. As a matter of fact, I always tell people that it is best to do the check when the least amount of birds are around. But today was different, I wanted to check on them and though light was fading fast, the light was good and the summer sun had another half hour yet to shine. I lowered the rack unaware of the horror that was about to greet me.

As I lowered the quad-tel pole down, I could hear the hungry chirps of the babies in the Excluder gourd. The Excluder gourd and the natural gourd both hang under my aluminum purple martin house which is protected by a S&K plastic predator guard. A S&K platform feeder rests above the guard. Both nests are about the same age…about 6 days old. 5 babies in both nests. I was excited to see them, as I am with all my birds. I first checked on my “tame” purple Martin female in compartment “A” of the house. She sat against the wall and allowed me to take a picture of her with no fuss. A blessing to see her so quiet with her nestlings huddled under her. I spoke gentle and soft to let her know all was OK. Closing the compartment I checked the others on the house, saving the gourds for last. I opened the natural gourd access cap and lo and behold, the devil sat staring at me. About 3 feet of red corn snake. One dead nestling underneath it and a few wing feathers from the mother martin were all that were left. I jumped back and cursed and so did the snake. Awakened from its comfortable spot of warmth with a full belly, it coiled back in the gourd. Thank goodness I keep my cell phone on me. My husband was out in a moment with my gardening gloves and I am not ashamed, I put the snake out of my misery. The poor dead nestling now alone in its nest.

My son and I buried the nestling in the back corner of the yard.  We said a prayer for it to find its way back to its mother and siblings, in Purple Martin heaven. The snake we left in the garbage can, for it to find its head.

The take home #1. Use traditional stovepipe type aluminum pole guards with your round and square poles. In my opinion, the S&K pole guard is flawed when dealing with smaller snakes. Unfortunately the pole being triangular limits you on the type of pole guard you can use. But Small snakes can be just as damaging as a larger snake. The plastic triangular hub that the guard attaches to, has small openings that this small snake with a 1/2 inch head was able to easily pass through. A traditional guard-installed properly, has no such gaps and would have protected from this little snake. 

Take home #2. Don’t let complacency keep you from installing snake netting. Though I have it handy and used it last year, I had not “gotten around to it” yet this year. Snake netting will be added tomorrow.

Nest check for April 27, 2009

Total eggs:  58        Total Young:   57        Total nests:  26

Next nest check Thursday April 30