Help with Gourd Rack Placement (Aspiring Landlord)

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JQ17B
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Apr 20, 2020 11:44 am
Location: St. Louis
Martin Colony History: 2020: Aspiring PM landlord.

Hello everyone -

Happy to be here. I'm an aspiring first-time landlord in the St. Louis, MO area. My first PM set-up arrives tomorrow and I'm excited to provide a stop-over on the long journey the birds make each year.

My reading has yielded lots of advice around the optimal space that a purple martin site should have in order to ensure you have the best odds of attracting & hosting a colony. Despite reading about massive open spaces and lots of rules of thumb like "40 feet from buildings and tall trees", "higher than the trees nearby", or "at least as far away as the the height of the closest tree" - and being concerned as to whether I have enough space, I decided to take the plunge anyway.

I'm hoping this group can provide me a little feedback on whether I should be worried about the space I have and provide a recommendation on where to locate my gourds when they arrive. I've attached a sketch of the yard with some rough distances. I apologize but it's most certainly not to scale. I still think it may serve for our purposes though.

For what it's worth - not depicted are my neighbors to the left and right (top of the image is 'North') have large open back yards - there are just some trees between me and the neighbor on the east side but they're very thinned out. North of the property, however, is pretty dense woods for about a quarter mile. In all other directions it's mostly homes on 0.5-1 acre with decent open spaces.

Happy to provide additional details and happy for any advice. The numbers on the image #1 and #2 are spots I was considering putting up the pole/gourds when they arrive.

Thanks!

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Brad Biddle
Posts: 522
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2016 6:22 pm
Location: Marshall County AL

Honestly it's gonna be a tough sell with those tall trees around your yard. I'd put it 10' off the corner of the patio. You may have to decide if you want to take some trees down, or be a landlord. Many folks have been faced with that decision.
Martin landlord since 2003. Currently offering 132 plastic gourds with tunnels and all SREH.
JQ17B
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Apr 20, 2020 11:44 am
Location: St. Louis
Martin Colony History: 2020: Aspiring PM landlord.

Thanks Brad - appreciate it. Do you think that’s too close to the house?

I agree that the trees are definitely not optimal for attracting martins. We just finished taking a bunch of trees out. The photo doesn’t do it a great justice, but it’s pretty thin on the border of the neighbor on the west (left) side and there aren’t many trees for several yards running east except the woods to the north. And that's the biggest problem I see - is what you’re looking at straight ahead - which is county property and not something I can do much about.

I should have mentioned, it’s a one-story home so there’s pretty decent line of sight between the front and backyard if one was a dozen+ feet off the ground.
Last edited by JQ17B on Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:19 am, edited 2 times in total.
John Miller
Posts: 4766
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2004 9:11 pm
Location: St. Louis, MO

St. Louis needs more housing. We're already near full occupancy at the housing in Forest Park and the Missouri Botanical Garden in the city, and a colony at Creve Coeur Park. Contact me this summer is you want to visit some of these sites and see nesting martins.

I am concerned whether your site is open enough. The "woods" toward the back are worrisome. Martins in my observation tend to not choosing housing by a solid line of trees or woods. The spot no. 1 might be most open, but pull it back from the woods a bit.

I just always advise folks to walk out to a potential site and look for open flyways out to the horizon on three sides if possible.

If you post a couple of more photos looking out toward where you want to place, maybe I can be more optimistic.

John Miller
JQ17B
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Apr 20, 2020 11:44 am
Location: St. Louis
Martin Colony History: 2020: Aspiring PM landlord.

John Miller wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 8:10 am
I just always advise folks to walk out to a potential site and look for open flyways out to the horizon on three sides if possible.

If you post a couple of more photos looking out toward where you want to place, maybe I can be more optimistic.
Thanks John. If St. Louis needs housing then I think it's worth the try regardless. Your insights are very valuable. Depending on how the summer plays out with COVID and the rest, I'd be happy to tour some of the martin colonies established around the city.

Here are a couple more photos. One looking back at the house. The yard is on a slight hill looking back up at the house.

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flyin-lowe
Posts: 2898
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

It might help too if you can go to google earth and get a screenshot of your property and the surrounding area from overhead. It is easier to get a feel for the lay of the land....
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.
deancamp
Posts: 412
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:17 pm
Location: Raymore, MO

If there are no trees to the right of your drawing you should use that to your advantage and move it close to that property line. If a single story home it could be within 30 to 40 foot of your house. I think closer to your house is better than closer to trees.
JQ17B
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Apr 20, 2020 11:44 am
Location: St. Louis
Martin Colony History: 2020: Aspiring PM landlord.

deancamp wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 9:01 am
I think closer to your house is better than closer to trees.
Thanks Dean - I agree. I'm not sure there aren't trees to the east to such a degree that it'll help that much - if you stand in the yard (the image below is going to not make it look good...) and look east, I guess my point was that you can see for several yards without major trees down the line - but it's probably a 40-60 ft wide corridor for 3/4 houses.

@flyin-lowe -- here's a screenshot of Google Earth. To be honest, this makes it look terrible (and maybe it is). The roads nearby, and the school you can see to the north, as well as major highways not a half-mile each direction (not pictured) create for a lot of open space. That doesn't help the situation in my yard though...

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John Miller
Posts: 4766
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2004 9:11 pm
Location: St. Louis, MO

Yes...agree closer to your house. Or, looks like a school a block away. This spring the virus concerns here would make meeting with them tough, but consider contacting them in the future. They have a few potential open spaces. Some people don't want to get into public sites, but some folks do (I think that's a country song.)
JQ17B
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Apr 20, 2020 11:44 am
Location: St. Louis
Martin Colony History: 2020: Aspiring PM landlord.

John Miller wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 10:22 am
Yes...agree closer to your house. Or, looks like a school a block away. This spring the virus concerns here would make meeting with them tough, but consider contacting them in the future. They have a few potential open spaces.
Thanks John - will probably give this season a whirl with them closer to the house. Quite right on the school a block away. Agree that now is a tough time to connect with anyone. Perhaps down the road.

At some point I'm going to have to head out to CC park and Forest Park to scope out your sites. We're about 10-15 minutes drive from both.
Whippy
Posts: 577
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 - ?

JQ,

I had a similar dilemma only difference is my trees aren't as tall as yours and my yard is a little smaller. Best I could do was find a happy medium in my yard that was equal distance from most obstructions. What I had going for me when I started was there was a Trio Wade across the alley that had only two compartments open. So my gourds were used as an over flow. My first year I had visitors from the Trio over flow. Next year I had one pair, then two pair, then 4 pair and now I'm looking at 10 to 12 pairs in my 5th year.

Here is a photo of my yard now. You'll see my gourds across from the pool and the red "X" is where I moved the Trio to this year. You can see where it was across the alley. It's the little white rectangle.

So it can be done. I would error closer to the house than closer to any trees.

Hope that helps some.

Coolwhips
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JQ17B
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Apr 20, 2020 11:44 am
Location: St. Louis
Martin Colony History: 2020: Aspiring PM landlord.

Whippy wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 10:36 am
JQ,

I had a similar dilemma only difference is my trees aren't as tall as yours and my yard is a little smaller...
Thanks so much for this Whippy! Breathing life into my otherwise imperfect set-up over here. Appreciate the insight and encouragement. Have to believe that some cared-for housing is going to be better than a complete lack of housing for the birds. Will do our best and see what happens!

I see you're in Plano - we just moved from N. Dallas about 6 weeks ago. Had lived down that way for over a decade. Best of luck with the 2020 season; I'll keep you posted with any progress on my end.
Whippy
Posts: 577
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 - ?

JQ,

I grew up in Dallas and moved to Plano when I got married.

Here is my gourd rack just now with a few of the Martins looking to mate up or confirming their pairing.
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JQ17B
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Apr 20, 2020 11:44 am
Location: St. Louis
Martin Colony History: 2020: Aspiring PM landlord.

Whippy wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 12:24 pm
Here is my gourd rack just now
Looking good! Hopefully my non-optimal setting will still be good enough to convince a few martins looking for a new home. I'll have to be vigilant to keep predators at bay. I purchased and plan to set up my rack with owl guards, baffle, and SREHs. Intend to "furnish" the inside. We have starlings in the area and many sparrows that I'll have to be careful to evict.
Whippy
Posts: 577
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 - ?

Go ahead and get it all set up this year. Even if you don't get a pair this year you'll most likely have SY visitors. In June of my first year I had a whole bunch of visitors from nearby colonies. I was real excited but none stayed. The following year one of them returned as an ASY male and got me started. He's out there today. That's him sitting on the top perch above the Troyer gourd directly facing the camera as his lady is at the entrance.
Black Jack
Posts: 69
Joined: Mon May 06, 2019 4:37 pm
Location: NC

If i was to make the call i would pull #2 back to 10 ft from the patio. I have a gourd rack right off my back porch. Martins love to be close to a dwelling. The closer you can get to the patio the better. It will give some fly way. I have a neighbor that lives inside the city and he has 2 gourd racks right in his back yard jammed up against metal windmills and american flag flying and trees around. All depends on the birds. I agree it might be hard to start a colony but its worth a try. They do love open farm land! The city neighbor has tons of martins :grin:
JQ17B
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Apr 20, 2020 11:44 am
Location: St. Louis
Martin Colony History: 2020: Aspiring PM landlord.

Thanks Whippy & Black Jack for your encouragement and suggestions. Sounds like it's pretty unanimous that closer to the house/patio is better. We'll give that a whirl. My gourds, owl guards, decoy, nesting material, etc. all arrived today. The stake, pole and perch are coming tomorrow - so it'll be tomorrow before I get it up in the yard. Looking forward to being in business!

I may have a starling problem... have been chasing them off my feeders all week.
deancamp
Posts: 412
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:17 pm
Location: Raymore, MO

What type of entrance does your housing have.? The sreh would help keep the starlings at bay.
JQ17B
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Apr 20, 2020 11:44 am
Location: St. Louis
Martin Colony History: 2020: Aspiring PM landlord.

deancamp wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 4:31 pm
What type of entrance does your housing have.? The sreh would help keep the starlings at bay.
Excluder 2 - so should be good!
Brad Biddle
Posts: 522
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2016 6:22 pm
Location: Marshall County AL

With a single story house, put it as close to the house as you want to. Trees are the issue. I don't know if you're open to cutting any more than you've already cut but cutting a couple of those tallest ones on the left could make all the difference in the world. The shot looking over your house from behind, helps my feeling some, but just a few more trees gone could make a huge difference.
Martin landlord since 2003. Currently offering 132 plastic gourds with tunnels and all SREH.
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