September News 2015 by Mary Wilson
Oh These Dirty Birds !!!!
It’s clean-up time for landlords. What a job – smelly, buggy, and often stuck like cement to the bottom of the gourd or house. Some of you have probably done this chore already, but for those of you who are waiting, like me, for cooler weather, here’s a few tips and safety considerations for tackling this job that have worked for us over the years. Work upwind if possible ? Getting a faceful of who knows what isn’t any fun. Wear a mask. Without knowing all the potential hazards existing in a used martin nest, the feather sheathing alone could be a real irritant if breathed in (that’s the white, powderlike stuff that blows around when a nest is removed). Wear gloves, or at least have wet wipes with you. You’ll appreciate them. I’ve found these tools to be useful with both houses and gourds: An old CD, broken in half, works well to scrape the curvature of a gourd. A “dish” brush with a long handle is very handy to sweep out the loosened debris. Spray bottle with a water / bleach mix. Many landlords use this to spray into crevices to kill any hidden insects. Some landlords feel that it also acts as a deterrent for insects during the next season. What one landlord says: “I take a spray bottle with a 10 percent bleach solution with me, and an extra gallon of the mix in a jug. Don’t get the mix too strong as it can burn your hands, and eye protection would be wise, and old clothes that you don’t care get spotted. I spray down the nest first, then pull out most of it, and re-spray and wipe out with old rags. I hope the bleach mixture protects me as I progress. The greatest benefit to the housing may be that it really brightens up the exterior.” A garden claw breaks up the nest into smaller pieces that can be pulled out through the access port on a gourd or through the entry of a house. A small scraper with sharp corners is a great tool for cleaning the rooms of Trio houses – I use the small countertop samples that you can pick up from any home improvement store. These are small enough to manipulate inside the compartment, and strong enough to really scrape them clean. 6 How clean do they have to be? It’s important to remove the old nest, and with it, most of the parasites that would otherwise overwinter in the gourd/house. Also, old nests that are left can cause deterioration of the house or gourd. As far as the martins are concerned, they don’t have to be squeaky clean. A little dirt is not a deterrant. Some people wipe or spray with a bleach solution (see above), which may help to eliminate any remaining mites or fleas after the nest is removed. If you can get a hose to your housing, you can blast out the crevices and loose dirt. How to store them for winter: If you have the time, energy, and storage space, they can be removed from the poles and stored out of the weather. No doubt this lengthens the life of housing and gourds. Otherwise, houses and gourds can be brought down to the lowest position on the poles. Remove all doors, floors, and access caps and store for the winter. *** Trio doors that have been modified to SREH by means of a plate riveted or screwed on present a particular problem: mites can overwinter between the two pieces of metal. Same problem could exist in gourd caps that have liners that are left in place. Immersing in a bleach solution, or pouring boiling water over them as they stand vertically in a plastic container will get rid of all the critters. (But to be safe, store them in an outside area rather than anywhere in or attached to the house.) Gourds left on the racks (no lids), and houses left open (no doors/floors), are scoured quite clean by the winter weather, and are bugless and ready to go in spring. (This is what we have always done at the two golf course locations we take care of. It works very well.) It also prevents occupation by sparrows prior to martins returning. Natural gourds have special considerations about which I am not qualified to speak. Our member and natural gourd expert Lyle Papps would be able to assist anyone with tips on cleaning, preserving, and storing their natural gourds.
Martin News May 29, 2015
The Spring season has been quite difficult for the martins this Spring with cool and sometimes cold conditions with the mercury dipping near the freezing point. Landlords have reported that the ASY martins have completed or are completing their nests and that they are beginning to lay their eggs. These past two weeks saw a noticeable increase in egg production and many nests have six eggs with the odd nest containing 7 eggs. Wow! That is a large clutch and we hope the parents can care for that many mouths.
The sub-adults have arrived this week (May 21) in large numbers according to Dennis Shady to his home in Harrow. He has observed a lot of pairing behaviors on the part of this new group of arrivals as the young males try desperately to attract mates. There is a general large noise volume and commotion as these young birds try to set up house.
At some colonies according to Rob Cornies many more males have returned than females and at some other colonies more females than males. Hopefully they can attract new mates or move on to find what they are looking for or stay the season as single birds.He also noted that early hawk attacks have taken their toll on his unwary martins. This quick attack by Cooper’s hawks is quite typical as the ASY males vocalize their locations for kilometers-just what attracts hawks to a local colony and future feeding station. It is often difficult to break this hawk behaviour once it begins and is certainly disheartening to see a colony desimated.
Early reports from Lou Kociuk in Port Rowan indicate that the martins were not returning in large numbers and that he is waiting for many more to return. He sent me some photos of his newly arrived martins and I’m sure there will be more coming.
Doug Grant from London, Ontario contacted me to share that his martins returned to the Double Taverner that he built last year. He also constructed a brand new Single Taverner to put on the local golf course. He hopes to attract more martins to this area.
On May 28th I made my weekly visit to our satellite colony again to make note of its status . I was happy to report that 25 of 30 compartments had nests with eggs or just nests and leaves. The first tally of eggs is around 132 so the season is starting off quite well. I did not see any sub-adult males here.
I will keep you posted as more information comes in.
Martin News April 1-7, 2015
It has been a while since this section has been updated but it’s purple martin time!
The weather is somewhat co-operating and the tree swallows have been steadily arriving over the last week to claim their nest boxes. Don Bissonnette informed me that he has made his bluebird rounds with his team to clean and wash the inside of the boxes and he reports that there are bluebird nests that are half completed. Here in Essex, I’ve seen a male bluebird in my yard but the pair that took up residence last year and fledged young on two separate occasions has not been seen. Tree swallows are visiting this nest box despite my best efforts to discourage them by blocking the entrance. Up to four pair have now visited my yard over the last week and claimed their nesting boxes. We’ll see how they fair over the next few weeks.
The colony site at Holiday Beach is now in position and there are two housing systems as well as a gourd rack in position offering 24 compartments. The tree swallows have claimed their nesting box for the third year in a row. Dennis and I adjusted the housing last week and cleared the weeds and brush below to deter any HOSP or rodents from hiding . All the nesting compartments are outfitted with SRE and their nesting chambers have straw and pine needles for bedding material. I believe the martins should be arriving the week of April 6, 2015.
Many OPMA landlords have reported their first arrivals and I thank them for their due diligence as they have readied their housing for these arrivals. Gilles Breton was the first to report a martin and a tree swallow at the Woodlands Hill Golf Club. As always, his enthusiasm for these arrivals is so overwhelming.
It is interesting to see how the martins have arrived over the past week in various locations-Morpeth, Forest, Niagara Falls, Long Point etc. There is such a scattering of these early arrivals. The weather will be a key to their survival over the next few weeks as the weather temperatures fluctuate, rainy and snowy conditions come and go. If the martins cannot find food, they will certainly perish so it is important for everyone to monitor this next generation of martins. Unfortunately, Susan Dobbin, Niagara Falls already reported that one female martin died after arriving at her colony. It was a three year old female who was banded in Pennsylvania as a nestling. How she came to Sue’s colony on the Niagara river is a complete mystery. As the car travels she was 160 miles from her natal colony.
Rob Cornies is in the process of adding a new T 14 to his colony set up which he purchased from Aaron Miller in Norwich, Ontario. Aaron and his uncle attest to the use of this Troyer house as both of them have very healthy colonies and the housing is heavily used.
While doing yard work on Monday, April 6th Dennis Shady also reported that he had to raise his housing as the martins circled overhead at about 10:00 a.m.
Don Bissonnette also reported a single male singing on his TV antenna as he hastily tried to get his gourds ready. Thereafter, he went to the Ford’s to fetch their Trio Castle out of the shed and with Nancy’s assistance got the housing in place. Nice to see that Don is helping the Ford’s and keeping them in step to the martins.
It is so interesting to hear from our landlords at this time of year. everyone has a story to tell as to how they saw their first martin. Keep the stories coming!
Martin News December, 2014
Our interest in Purple Martins, especially from our colony sites here in
Ontario, has been growing exponentially upon reading about groundbreaking, first-ever news on “Tracking Purple Martin Migration to Brazil and back” by Dr. Bridget J. Stutchbury in the 2009 Spring issue 18(2) of thePurple Martin Update with light collectors called geolocators. Nature Canada has been involved in research to determine the reasons for the decline of purple martins in Eastern Ontario. They have deployed several geolocators in the eastern region of our province and anticipate that the martins will return this Spring, 2015 with some interesting travelogues.
The OPMA earlier showed interest in deploying geolocators from our satellite site at Holiday Beach, Amherstburg but was unable to raise sufficient funds for the project but has not given up as we look forward to increasing migration data from this location in the province.
Several individuals have sent us several posts which can be read at your pleasure to see what is happening in the natural world. Some of the You Tube content is well worth watching. Many thanks to all of you who take the time to contribute to our website.
Martin News August, 2014
Martin News July, 2014
Martin season officially over! Oh no! Now what are we going to do? Not!
Martins are still busily taking care of their young at various locations as of July 21, 2014 but the very late sub-adult chicks have a few more weeks to develop before they leave their housing units. As of last week, sub-adult eggs were just beginning to hatch so colony inspection evidence proves that this will be a delayed season just as the sub-adult arrival season was.
At some colonies further east, Norwich, Ontario nests and egg hatching were at various stages of development with some young ready to fledge or fledged already. Aaron Miller, Norwich commented that his earliest birds began to hatch on June 22. This would have them fledge at the end of the second week of July. Bill Kociuk’s colony at Port Rowan were well advanced with several young hatched during the second week of June. Many of Rob Daub’s colony in Forest, Ontario were well developed and ready to fly as of July 6, 2014. Most martin inspections revealed very healthy young that were developing according to the PMCA fledging weight chart indicator. This is a very handy tool for evaluating the martin baby growth along with the photo growth sheets. Don’t forget to check your young for blow fly infestations.
Over 1000 young martins were banded this summer and the Walpole Island Project results are not included in this current figure. Many kilometers and hours on the road saw martin banders in Niagara Falls, Port Rowan, Norwich, Forest, Charring Cross, Morpeth, Harrow, Essex, and Walpole Island. It has been one of the most earnest banding efforts to date.
In the next few weeks Purple Martin roosts will begin forming throughout Ontario and North America. The one at Walpole Island will be one to keep on the radar map. It typically shows the doughnut ring early in the morning. Others should develop near Erie, Pa just across Lake Erie.
Keep us informed of any news you may have concerning a roost in your area. I’m sure many would like to view it or a pre-staging site.
June 6, 2014
The weather has been wonderful this past two weeks and indeed most colonies have settled down and are now setting on their eggs. The tree swallows and bluebirds have hatched and are busily feeding their young.
After Paul, our president sent out the survey to all of our members I am happy to report that the martin season is certainly going well so far. Members report that their numbers are up at various locations and nest building has eased into egg laying as mentioned before. Some PMCA members reported that their numbers were down and Terry Suchma contacted me to find out how our colonies were doing due to some very poor reports from Michigan.
Our public colony at Holiday Beach continues to grow with many eggs now laid in all the completed nests. 19 pair show promise this year if all goes well. Our new gourd rack continues to attract visiting martins and boasts two nesting pair so far and several nests.
Lou Kociuk’s colony at Port Rowan is doing exceptionally well with his four gourd systems. Lots of 6 egg clutches and some 7 egg. He has over 50 pair at his site. His ideal setting by the lake offers spectacular martin habitat.
Al Hamill’s colony is doing well with an increase in number despite earlier concerns. Tim, Albert and Alex failed to attract any nesting pair ; only visitors-domage.
Gilles, Aad, Don, Vincent, Phil ,Don, Marcella and Carolyn report increased numbers while Lyle, Mary, Dennis, Bob,Joe, Marieanne, Paul, Loretta, Rob, Frank and Wes report some drop in colony numbers. It will be interesting to see whether the numbers increase with new sub-adult attempts and how many survive the nesting process over the next few weeks. Jacques and Linda from Tilbury have two pair hanging around their location but their nest building is just beginning.
Banding will begin in the third week of June and continue until we are able to band. We will have some large colonies to band this year especially Aaron MIller’s colony in Norwich, Ontario. Get in touch with Rob or myself if you would like to have your colony banded. We will be surveying our members at our June 21st meeting at Marieanne’s.
April 13, 2014
IT HAS FINALLY WARMED UP AND THE MARTINS ARE RETURNING TO ONTARIO.
Today was a balmy day and Rob called me to join him in preparing the martin houses at the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory site. The weather has been very nasty but we realized that the sooner we got there the better. Rob confirmed that he would be able to pick me up within an hour so it was time to review what we would need to have just in case when we arrived at Holiday Beach: nest bedding material, extra doors, extra door plugs, wrenches, pliers, scraper, clothes pin pieces for the Trio door clips, new pulley and bolt, wd-40, portable grinder, park entrance fob etc…..gate key…
Wow, you never know what you will encounter when you return to a site but what we realized was that we had to replace the pulley on the Trio castle as the plastic had disintegrated, Fortunately I had a plastic and a metal pulley.
When we arrived at the site we were greeted by numerous tree swallows, purple martins, mute swans, Canada geese and a host of other passerines. What a beautiful spectacle!
We lowered the first house and added nesting material to create the pre-nest look. This would really make the house looked lived in. The house needed no repair and was quickly raised to its original orientation. Rob had already lowered the castle and was disassembling the unit and removing any unwanted material. Together we quickly removed the house from its ground post and removed the old pulley assembly. We both agreed that the metal pulley could be fitted to the top of the pipe but that the top of the post would require some quick cutting with his Dewalt 19 volt grinder and still accommodate the top perch.The pulley and perch were ready to go. All that was required was to return the pole to the post mount.
The nesting compartments were filled with bedding material and the doors were returned in a timely fashion as the martins complained over our heads about the sudden intrusion. Most of the martins left when we began working on the house to feed and returned in short order when everything was returned to its original state.When we return in the next few days, we will return with two predator guards for the martin housing as well as one for the tree swallow housing.
When we sat back and gazed at the housing we were astonished to see how many martins were there and this is by no means a definite number as all the birds had not returned. The photos below are a snapshot of the Holiday Beach site ready for Spring 2014.
What’s Happening 2014
The 2013 news information has now been moved to ARCHIVES under Martin News.
A Letter from Our Secretary
January 18, 2014