First arrival, predator control, and supplemental feeding....

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Posts: 22
Joined: Sun May 26, 2019 4:37 pm
Location: Missouri

I have my first arrival back today for the 2020 season! I was out feeding calves this morning about 9:00, and I heard the unmistakable sound of a martin somewhere in the sky above me. Sure enough, within about a minute I had a ASY male martin dive right down to my housing. I'm pretty sure it's the same male that started my colony last year, because he went straight to the same house and compartment he successfully nested in last year, which is the same compartment he tried to nest in in 2018 as a SY male. He spent the next couple hours checking out the new housing and then headed off, circling the sky and periodically checking back in! He showed up last year on March 27th, so he's about 3 weeks earlier than last year. So, I have a few questions for the more experienced on here....

I built a V-top trap a few weeks ago to catch sparrows and starlings. I caught a couple sparrows in my poultry brooder buildings, clipped their wings, and put them in the trap to act as decoys. This worked well, as I've been averaging about 3 sparrows a day since getting it out there. There's a place behind the barn where the sparrows tend to congregate, and that's where I put it. My concern now is hawks. The last couple days, I've had a sharp shinned hawk attacking the trap trying to get to the sparrows. The trap is about 80 yards from my martin housing. Is this going to be a problem? I was reading a post yesterday, and someone was talking about how martin's behavior will change with constant hawk attacks. I don't want to be drawing in hawks and terrorizing the martins on a daily basis. I'm also thinking that this could possibly help, as the hawks might be inclined to try to attack the sparrows since their out in the open and appear to be an easy meal. Any thoughts??

Secondly, when it comes to snake control, I think I'm going to try electric fencing instead of a pole guard and netting. I've seen snakes get around and through some crazy things, and I just don't trust it. My thinking is to wrap the bottom 3 or 4' of pole in plastic pvc, then wrap wire in varying degrees of tightness up the pole 3.5'. Will this work? I've never seen any post on here about electric fencing for snake control, but I would think this would work great. Has anyone ever done this?

Lastly, the 10 day forecast shows for temps in the 50's with chances of rain. Do you think I need to supplemental feed? I don't currently have any way to feed by means of the pole and pan system, but I'm thinking if need be I could just take crickets and meal worms and put some in each of the compartments, and any returning martins could get an easy meal within the housing. Would this work....has anyone tried this?

Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated!
Posts: 3008
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

If your forecasted temps are in the 50's they should be able to feed. With martins that have never been fed before a lot of times it takes about 3 days of no feeding before they will take flipped food. Even if it rains most of the day, if it stops for an hour or so and you see them take off they should be good. If the weather is bad enough that you don't see them flying on the third day I would get to a pet store and buy some crickets. I had to do this last year for the first time ever and it only took them a couple minutes to catch on and start eating the flipped crickets.
2020 Currently 42 nest, 110 babies, 64 eggs left to hatch(6-22-20) HOSP count-8
2019- 31 Pair over 100 fledged
2018- 15 pair last count 49 fledged
2017 3 SY pair nested, 12 eggs total, fledged 10. 4 additional SY's stayed all summer but never paired/nested.
2016 1 pair fledged 4
2015 Visitors
2014 Visitors
2013 Moved 6 miles away, 1 pair fledged 2.
2012 30 pair fledged 100.
2011 12 pair (11 that nested), 43 fledged.
2010 5 pair, 21 eggs, 16 hatched, 14 fledged.
Posts: 22
Joined: Sun May 26, 2019 4:37 pm
Location: Missouri

The only time I would have time to even try flipping crickets or mealworms would be on the weekends. That's why I was thinking I could just put some crickets or mealworms in the compartments, and they could just feed at leisure within the compartments. It's just a thought, and maybe it wouldn't work. Has anyone tried this?
Posts: 710
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:15 pm
Location: Plano, Texas
Martin Colony History: See Signature

I've seen a guy on youtube place meal worms on the porches but not inside the cavity. As soon as he put the racks back up, they landed and started feeding. I'm trying to find the link to the video.

Found it. Bird Man Mel.

I've also read of other landlords doing the same just never heard of any being fed inside.

2016 - late to put up, many visitors
2017 - 1 pair, 3 fledged
2018- 2 pair, 12 fledged
2019 - 4 pair, 21 fledged
2020 - 15 pair, 67 fledged
Brad Biddle
Posts: 523
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2016 6:22 pm
Location: Marshall County AL

I’ve used electric fencing for a predator guard for probably 15 years. I can post some pictures of my set up if you’d like. I have a couple different set ups. I used 3/4” pvc conduit stacked around the base of the pole on a few racks. I glued a short piece of pvc to the top and bottom of each piece to use as a spacer to keep from having to stack the pieces solidly. So I have a piece of pvc, a gap, a piece of pvc, a gap, and so on. I hold the pvc permanently in place with stainless steel hose clamps. I wrapped electric fence wire around the door pvc starting at the bottom up to the top, then wrapped it back to the bottom. It has a cross-cross pattern. Tie the ends to the hose clamp. I used direct bury electric fence wire to run it from the fence to the poles. Until last season when my dad had unhooked it without my knowledge, I had never had a snake attack. Once I hooked it back up, I had no more snake attacks. That tells me it will stop them cold. Since that snake had already destroyed 3 nests, it would have continued to do so if it could have gotten past the guards. Our fencer has an 8 joule output. It’s the one we use for our cattle fencing.
Martin landlord since 2003. Currently offering 162 plastic gourds with tunnels, all with Conley II entrances with the Lewis modification. I have 24 Supergourds and the rest are Troyer Horizontals.
Posts: 14
Joined: Mon Feb 17, 2020 9:06 am
Location: Tuscaloosa

Are you seeing any martins yet Brad? I would love to see some pics of that fence charger setup if you don't mind.
Posts: 22
Joined: Sun May 26, 2019 4:37 pm
Location: Missouri

That's great, Whippy. Thanks for sharing that link! I actually just put up a new lonestar goliad house, and I was thinking that the porches would work great as little feed trays they way they're made. He did make mention of how he will place mealworms inside the housing as well sometimes, so I guess worst case scenario, I could try both and possibly have success!

Brad, I would love to see some photos of the setup you use for the fencing around your poles. It sounds pretty similar to what I had in mind, but seeing it from someone who's had success with it would be great. I plan to dedicate a fencer to this project, because I'm nervous about my father doing the exact same thing! We've got this one particular fencer that will absolutely put you on your a--! It is HOT. I'm going to change it out for one of the spares we have and use it for the snake control.

Thanks guys....all advice is appreciated!
Sharon - Central TX
Posts: 648
Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2004 9:20 pm
Location: So. Central TX
Martin Colony History: All Troyer Horizontal Gourds with Conley Entrances
PMCA Member since 2004

We put electric wiring on our poles after my husband got tired of cutting snakes out of the netting. That was about 5-6 years ago and we haven’t had any snakes since. I realized how effective it was when I watched a squirrel run over with the intent of trying to go up the pole. As soon as he touched the wires he literally did a backflip and took off for parts unknown :grin:.
Your upcoming weather doesn’t sound like anything to worry about. We’ve had the same here and the birds manage to get out every possible chance to feed.
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