Gemini Gourd Rack Photos And A Short Update

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Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Gemini Gourd Rack Photos And A Short Update

The other day I took a few photos of my purple martin colony and here are three of my Gemini gourd racks. For some reason, the Forum will not allow me to post more than three photos at a time. I remember under the old system I could post more photos. I link photos from my Photobucket account to the Forum.

Just a short update…

As of March 22, 2020 I believe I have between 150 and 200 pairs of purple martins in my colony in northwest Louisiana. This is about a 50% occupancy level right now and probably most of the ASY martins that nested in 2019 and survived on their wintering grounds/migration are here. However, we still see more ASYs arriving all through March and into April each season.

I am currently offering 380 cavities: 352 plastic gourds and 28 Trendsetter compartments. There are 17 systems including 15 gourd racks and two Trendsetter houses.

We usually see the first SY male martin arrive toward the end of March or first of April. So any day now a SY male should be here.

My neighbor Bob’s martin colony is loaded with martins, too and he has well over a 100 pairs right now.

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PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
SSMartin
Posts: 124
Joined: Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:05 pm
Location: FL

Look at all those round holes! Do you ever battle starlings?
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

I’ve used round holes in my current starling and sparrow free purple martin colony since I started this colony in 2005. We have few starlings that investigate our two colonies and all are either shot or trapped and some leave on their own accord. So there are martin landlords who have minor starling problems and can control them via trapping/shooting. I am one of those landlords. I am retired and can observe my martin colony daily to watch for any starlings.

I have a good friend Johnny Gerber who lives in north central Louisiana and hosts 200+ pairs of martins each season all in round holes. He is not retired but still successfully controls starlings mainly through shooting. He has not experienced any losses of martins to starlings.

So far, I have only shot two starlings and I believe trapped six since November. I’ll probably eliminate a few more before the martin season is over. But we don’t have an “end of the world” starling problem and I don’t live in paralyzing fear that starlings are going to destroy my colony. I address any starling problem the old fashion way by shooting/trapping them. I ruthlessly eliminate starlings and give no quarter!

I use round holes in my martin colony because I want to use them and the martins are doing just fine. Martins have nested in round hole cavities for thousands of years. With round holes, I haven’t had any entrapment issues and all martins can easily enter/exit without struggling when Accipiter hawks are attacking. I really have no compelling reasons to use srehs in my personal martin colony at this time. The only reason I would use srehs would be because I have a starling problem that I am unable to satisfactorily address through trapping/shooting. For now, I don’t have that problem. Maybe later on when I’m older and I can’t control starlings as effectively, then that would be an appropriate time to change over to srehs.

We do use all crescent entrances in our five satellite martin colonies located in northwest Louisiana. These colonies are in areas with more starling activity and we can’t monitor the sites daily. The crescents have worked well to keep out starlings. Unfortunately, we do lose several martins each season to entrapment in the crescents, particularly when martins are fighting and the loser tries to escape and is stuck in the hole. All these losses are in aluminum houses and the thin metal seems to trap more easily. I have also watched some martins struggle to exit/enter crescents when Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks are attacking. But the crescents are appropriate because of the dangers from starlings and we can’t be there daily to eliminate starlings.
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
Whippy
Posts: 598
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:15 pm
Location: Plano, Texas
Martin Colony History: 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

Very well said, Steve.

I changed all of my S&K Big Bo and Bo-11 gourds over to round holes a couple of days ago. Up to this change, Martins had shown no real interest in the gourds with the crescent openings. They did kneel down and have a look in but none ever entered. They went to the Troyers with Conley entrances. Well, yesterday and this morning, I've had Martins jumping in and out of all the S&K gourds with round holes. I am seeing twice the number of Martins today than I did any time last year. ASY males are now perching half in and half out of the round holes.

Like you I do not have a starling problem. However, within 12 hours of changing over to the round holes I had one starling show up and enter many of the gourds. He/she has moved on. I have not seen it since although, my son, is ready for his return. I was so mad I almost changed everything back. I'm glad I didn't.

I've ordered round holes for my Troyers and plan to change over 5 of the 10 I have. Since 5 of them are being used now, I'm just going to change the ones that aren't being used. Strangely enough, these 5 unused Troyers are all on the lower rack of the two tier system.

I once changed the doors on my Trio to crescent openings just as the season started but, like you have experienced, I had a huge fear of the very thin metal and the crescent opening causing more wing entrapments than I wish to consider so I changed them back to round holes. I've not yet figured out how to add Emerils side boards to the Trio due to the way the doors open. So for now they remain round and well used.

As I mentioned in another of your threads I believe most Martins in this DFW area are born to round holes and therefore, are more likely to be comfortable entering the same when they return. I have no scientific data to back any of this up rather, just observation and behavior patterns of the Martins visiting my colony.

Thank you, Steve. I'm hoping my colony will double in size this year and believe the change I made will facilitate that happening.

Coolwhips.
TerryW
Posts: 122
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:02 pm
Location: Nashville, Arkansas

Excellent pictures of a great looking colony. Only other colony that is as impressive is located maybe at Greenwood AR, eh, Steve?
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Whippy,

I am glad you are seeing more martins in your colony. Round holes are easier for martins to enter and as long as you don't have major starling issues and you can control the starlings, then your colony should do just fine. If starlings do become more of an issue, then you can always change back to srehs. Once martins are bonded to a cavity, changing the entrance hole is not much of an issue and martins will usually readily adapt.

We have thought about adding some kind of entrapment guard to the aluminum crescents in our satellite colonies. Something that will make the entrance area "thicker" around the thin aluminum. So that is something we are looking at. It is always disturbing to check our satellite colonies and find dead martins firmly stuck in crescent entrances and then find other dead martins in the compartment behind the stuck martin. The most we found one year were six martins.

So just keep a close watch on your martin colony and looking for those "yellow beaks"!

With our large martin colonies, huge numbers of martins covering gourd racks and houses does provide some intimidation to territory seeking starlings. Martins will "mob" a starling that intrudes on multiple martin territories and this can help to discourage a solitary starling.

I have a separate trapping system comprised of four PMCA nest box traps attached to an old gourd rack that can be raised/lowered by rope and pulley. I placed this system about 100 yards from Bob's colony out in the open. It is a magnet for starlings and they often fly over our martin loaded colonies to check in but not check out alive in the Starling Hotel! You might consider some kind of similar trapping system near your colony. Starlings if given a choice may prefer to nest alone rather than among a bunch of martins. So a nearby trapping system may lure starlings away from your colony.

Please keep us posted on how things go with your martin colony.

Steve

Terry,

I believe you may be talking about Greg Ballard's outstanding martin colony! Greg has visited my martin colony twice and watched the martins come in to roost. His wife competes in dirt bike races and there is a race in our area that usually occurs in April I believe. So they came over and I really enjoyed their visit.

Greg has a bunch of the Gemini gourd racks and two of the GHOST T-14 houses. I believe he may have 300+ cavities offered this season. He posts on Facebook a lot.

I know you are trying to re-start your martin colony in Arkansas. Have you seen any martins at your place yet?

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
TerryW
Posts: 122
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:02 pm
Location: Nashville, Arkansas

Not seen one martin yet, Steve!

You and Greg and Bob, is he the old was it "Trucker Bob" or something like that from past years of the forum? You guys have all the local martins. Saw a group high, high in the air headed north, and they could only be headed for Greg's place...just kidding. Yes I know he has sort of a friendly competition going with you. I just friended him on Facebook about a week ago. Both of you are Gemini-ers, and what beautiful racks they are!
Brad Biddle
Posts: 523
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2016 6:22 pm
Location: Marshall County AL

When I'm outside on the farm and look around, it amazes me that there can be any place left that still doesn't have Starling problems. I shoot them as often as possible, but I couldn't make a dent in their population. If I swapped over to round holes next year, I'd have 100 pairs of Starlings in short order.

Looks like things are going great in LA Steve. Happy for you. I finally got my ground sockets made this afternoon for my "homemade" Gemini racks. If it will dry up some, I'll get them installed within the next week or so. I'm not rushing to put them up but will get them up soon. My next farm neighbor is basically starting over since his gourds fell into disrepair and Starlings completely took over for the past 2-3 years. He sought my advice on gourds last year and I got him hooked up with Troyer Verticals, with added "crescent" wing entrapment guards on the exterior to help increase their Starling resistance. I wanted him to hopefully get a pair or two before I put up the 60 new gourds. I noticed yesterday that he had 2 ASY males roosting in his gourds, so now I feel like I'm good to go ahead and put mine up.
Martin landlord since 2003. Currently offering 132 plastic gourds with tunnels and all SREH.
Rodger Drye
Posts: 671
Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:07 am
Location: NC/Mt. Pleasant
Martin Colony History: Have been hosting and providing a sanactuary for Purple Martins for 30 years.

Hey Steve,

As always Great photo’s of your Gemini Racks and Martin’s. Certainly wish I could use round holed Gourd’s. If it wasn’t for the Starling infestation I have around here, I would have several if not all round holed Gourd’s. However, I do my best to to keep the Starling numbers down mostly with trapping and it does help a lot.

Actually I feel like Martin’s do like round hole entrances the best. And like you said they have nested with round hole entrances for many many years. My Dad only offered Round Holed plastic Gourd’s and he was very successful every year.

I’ll have to resort to keep using Conley II and Crescent entrances. As far as I can tell all my Bird’s have adapted to using them quite well.

I’m still holding at about 25 Bird’s but southerly winds and warm temperatures are headed my way. Hoping this will blow in some more Bird’s for my Colony.

Keep me posted on your Colony and keep them pictures coming, I enjoy looking at them.!!

Rodger
PMCA Member
Have been Hosting and Protecting Martin's for 30 years.
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Hey Terri,

You still have plenty of time to attract some purple martins this year. We still have bunches of ASYs coming in and I haven't seen any SYs yet.

Yes, Bob is the one and only Trucker Bob! Never be another one! He retired from trucking years ago. Between deer hunting and the martins, he keeps busy!

Greg and I "devil" each other about our martin numbers! He's a cool guy and takes good care of his martins! I think he has maybe ten Geminis! Very impressive colony!

Steve

Hey Brad,

Starlings are definitely almost everywhere in North America but perhaps in some locations they are not as "thick" as in others. When I lived in north Florida, I never saw any starlings around my last two martin colonies, one with 150+ martin pairs and the last one with over 70 pairs. Starling and house sparrow were just not there and I have no explanation for this. Both of these colonies were located "way out in the country" and maybe this was a factor.

I'm looking forward to seeing your Gemini racks and hope you will post photos of them. I really like the two tier circular hubs.

Sorry that your neighbor's martin colony went downhill with deteriorating gourds and starlings. Though I will always love natural gourds, I just can't deal with all the maintenance anymore. I have such good success with Troyer Horizontals and Verticals, Super Gourds and Excluders. Glad you were able to help him out.

I hope you have a great martin season!

Steve

Hey Rodger,

I am glad you like the photos! I'll try to post more as the martin season progresses.

I fully understand why folks use srehs in areas with large numbers of starlings and if we had such major problems, then we would most likely convert to them. But fortunately for us starlings have not been a big problem and I have managed to control them through trapping/shooting.

We had southern winds all day and another wave of ASY martins arrived at our two colonies. Man, have the martins been fighting each other all the way to the ground! I haven't seen any SY males yet but I am looking carefully!

Please keep us posted on how your martin colony does this season. With these southern winds you should be seeing martins soon!

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
Spiderman
Posts: 778
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2008 9:19 am
Location: Gladewater, Texas

I have 82 Troyer Horizontals and use round holes as well. I have caught 10 Starlings this year in Van Ert Traps and then they finally quit showing up.

I met a new friend that lived in town and Starlings were taking over his Colony with round holes. He bought 2 Van Ert traps and started catching 2 Starlings a day and eventually he caught all of the ones that were near his Colony. He easily disposed of 50 before it got better. So if you are semi retired and have the time you can control Starlings anywhere.

Like Steve I think the Martins being able to enter Gourds quickly helps to save many Martins during hawk attacks. With the Troyer Horizontals our Martins have learned when the hawk comes to stay inside and you will be safe. Not an easy thing for a Martin to do when others are circling over head and screaming. Unfortunately once you get to a certain number of Martins the Hawks are going to attack and unfortunately it isn't just one hawk every once in awhile.

Best of Luck to all of You with your Martin Season this year!
2008 - 33 PAIR - FLEDGED 96 YOUNG
2009 - 51 PAIR - FLEDGED 166 YOUNG
2010 - 45 PAIR - FLEDGED 146 YOUNG
2011 - 33 PAIR - 128 HATCHED, 97 FLEDGED
2012 - 37 PAIR - 119 HATCHED, 101 FLEDGED
TerryW
Posts: 122
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:02 pm
Location: Nashville, Arkansas

Terri...Terri??? I ain't no girl! haha, Steve, don't worry about it, I just thought it was funny.
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Hey Spiderman,

If someone can implement a strong trapping program and can do it daily, then yes, I believe some folks can control starlings even in urban areas where starlings are abundant. But you gotta to stick with the program! I knew a lady who lived in downtown Shreveport which is infested with starlings. She used all round holes in her housing and she and her husband successfully controlled starlings mainly through trapping. So I believe it can be done.

If martins would stay inside their gourds/houses when an Accipiter is attacking, most would be OK as long as the cavities are not those small 6"x6" size. Yes, when a large number of airborne martins are screaming the danger call, then the temptation for martins to exit is great. And that is how many will get caught. They often bolt right in front of an Accipiter hawk that is already inside the colony. I do believe the deep Troyer Horizontals with tunnels do encourage martins that are inside to hold tight when a hawk is attacking.

Steve

Hey Terry,

I don't know what I was thinking! A stupid mistake! Sorry!

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
TerryW
Posts: 122
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:02 pm
Location: Nashville, Arkansas

Oh heck, like I said, no big deal and funny. I shore would be an ugly gal. 6'4" and about 240...chuckle...
TerryW
Posts: 122
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:02 pm
Location: Nashville, Arkansas

Returning to the topic. Steve has a magnificent colony, and I am sure it is amazing to see and hear returning martins thock, thock, thock as they hit those round holes at high speed...so cool.

To have all round holes in most areas of the country invites a significant starling problem, and they are bad news to martins and many, many other cavity nesters. Are you willing to stay with your colony on what might be a pretty-much continuous basis to trap or kill the needle beaks? Damn Eugene Schieffelin for introducing starlings into Central Park, New York City in 1890. Also damn him for introducing the European House Sparrow prior to the Starlings! Introduced simply to have the old world birds present in America, birds Shakespeare referred to in his literature.

My hat's off to Steve for doing what he does, and I congratulate him on his success!

I would never attempt to start nor to even run an existing colony with all round holes unless I were dedicated to the point that I would be willing to be present at the site with gun and traps in hand on almost a continuous basis.

Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!
Rodger Drye
Posts: 671
Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:07 am
Location: NC/Mt. Pleasant
Martin Colony History: Have been hosting and providing a sanactuary for Purple Martins for 30 years.

TerryW,

Good for you Terry. Yes Steve has a super Great Colony with all his Bird’s, and he is a super Landlord and very knowledgeable when it come to Martin’s. And to think he offers all “Round Holes”. I would truly like to offer even some Round Holes, but I know that would be like a dinner bell ringing for the Starlings to come get some. I just can’t do it. Unable to watch my Colony hours on end. These Starlings around here a pretty darn smart when they see you with a Rifle they high tail it for the boonies. I do incorporate a regiment of trapping and I’m pretty successful in that endeavor. I’ve trapped and eliminated 20 Starlings to date.!!

Fortunately I’m not plagued with Hawks or Owls as predators - at least not yet. I know we have both Hawks and Owls bc I see them from time to time. I’ve just never witnessed a Hawk or Owl attack on my Colony. Knock on wood and I hope I never will.! My biggest problem was Starlings, Sparrows, and one year I had a stubborn Blue Bird that wouldn’t leave my Colony alone. I’ve trapped many Sparrows and don’t seem to have a problem with them anymore. I placed 5 different Bluebird boxes around the farm here and don’t have Blue Bird problems anymore.

I do have Black Snakes and I catch my share every year. We have Raccoons, and Coyote’s,Opossum’s, etc.but my predator guards seem to keep them at bay. A couple years ago I’d left some Sparrows in my Uncle Blain’s Bait Trap to entice more sparrows to join them.
A Coon tore a hole in the wire and ate all the bird’s. He must have been very hungry cause he tore that trap up.!

Keep on Posting, I like to read your Posts’!

Rodger
PMCA Member
Have been Hosting and Protecting Martin's for 30 years.
TerryW
Posts: 122
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:02 pm
Location: Nashville, Arkansas

Thank you, Rodger!
TerryW
Posts: 122
Joined: Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:02 pm
Location: Nashville, Arkansas

Thank you, Rodger! Oops, double dipped!
tor
Posts: 220
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2009 4:35 pm
Location: Marlboro County, SC
Martin Colony History: Capacity: 72 Troyers on 3 X Super-24 racks

"Steve to a red courtesy phone - Steve to a red courtesy phone"

So I am getting a new 24-gourd rack for next season. Currently i only have Super-24 racks, but contemplating getting a Gemini-24 this time. Have never owned or operated a Gemini, but just by looking at it, it seems like it would be a little easier to nest-check. So I need your opinion. Is the Gemini worth the slightly higher price? Go... :wink:
Location: Marlboro County, SC

2020: Capacity: 72 - First Scouts: 2/11 - 71 pair - 298 hatched as of last nest check.
2019: Capacity: 72 - First Scouts: 2/22 - 70 pair - 315 fledged
2018: Capacity: 70 - First Scouts: 2/18 - 60 pair - 270 fledged
2017: Capacity: 42 - First Scouts: 2/25 - 39 pair
2016: Capacity: 42 - First Scouts: 3/10 - 32 pair
2015: Capacity: 24 - First Scouts: 3/23 - 4 pair

Purple Martins Of South Carolina
2020 Season
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4342
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Tor,

Absolutely! If you keep 24 gourds on the Gemini, then I have had no issues with checking the nests. I did have 32 way back in 2011 and the gourds were a little close together and not as easy to access, but I was still able to check the nests. It depends on the type of gourds you are using, too.

I have four Geminis and use a variety of gourd styles on three and all PMCA Excluders on one. All four Geminis have been nearly 100% occupied each season by martins. I kinda like to use different styles with alternating horizontals and verticals. But using all the same is fine, too.

So, yes, I believe the Gemini is worth the extra cost and is a beautiful system, too. I like the double ring approach.

I wish you the best this martin season and next year with that new Gemini if you decide to go that route!

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season
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