Want martins ? Watch, read, think, AND ACT. That's this theme. I think you'll find my history interesting.
About 17 years ago, an acquaintance introduced me to martins. I immediately was charmed by the birds and wanted them in my back yard.
I purchased some natural gourds, painted them white, put them on a 10 ft pole, and had a colony. First year. Bottom predator guard. No owl guard.
I had NO CLUE how lucky I was.
Location: central FL. small yard on a lake. part of a four lake chain. lots of open aerial space, water side. other residences on lake chain had active martin housing and colonies. In other words, I had "seed" birds.
Note: I'm a "hands off" landlord. At the start of a season, I'll take some measures to lure and protect After that, the birds are on their own. No nest checks. No interventions. Nothing.
2nd year: Considering how EZ it was, I decided to add a 2nd pole and gourd set. Lost 50 % of colony to owls. Didn't realize it till near season's end.
3rd year: Installed the Y wire owl guards to the gourds. Useless. Colony abandoned mid season to owl harassment.
4 year: Colony abandoned several weeks into season to owl harassment.
At this time I thought " forget these birds.... they're too sensitive" and left the hobby.
Jump forward a dozen years. I wanted martins again. But during that 12 year hiatus, I saw some online pix of housing that definitely did NOT conform to PMCA guidelines. Like an unpainted gourd hanging on a wire from a 5 ft fence post. Message was " we're not birds and don't know what they want..... so just put up some housing ". I also personally observed active martin housing about 8 feet high in a SE FL trailer park. I could reach up and touch them.
So --- armed with this knowledge of how EZ it was gonna be to resurrect:
Year one of rebound: I put up some unpainted gourds on a 9 ft pole. Result ? No birds.
Year two of rebound: Painted gourds white. 9 ft pole. Played dawnsong when I felt like it. Result ? No birds.
Year three of rebound: White gourds on a 9 ft pole. Dawnsong when I felt like it. Result ? Some martins visited for a few weeks then vanished. Later in the season I noticed a pair of bluebirds in one of the gourds. I let them be. End of season.
It's at this time that some reading and thinking took place. I re-read the PMCA site guidelines and thought " What about my site has changed and made it UNattractive ? And what can I do to mitigate that ? "
Problem: Neighbor trees grow out in 15 years. A lot. And I have NO control over their trimming.
Answer: I read somewhere that if tree encroachment is a factor, then lift housing HIGH. 16 ft. Might work. Might not.
Problem: I read Dr. Dan Drew's online article about blue bird and tree swallow interference. I had NO CLUE the one pair of blue birds the previous season prevented martin colonization of the entire gourd rack.
Answer: Purchase and install alternate housing for blue birds. Once they commit, THEN raise martin housing.
GEEEZ !! See how lucky I was back in the day ??!!
Problem: Canoeing in the lakes, I noticed all the former martin housing is gone. Landlords moved, lost interest, whatever. No nearby "seed" birds.
Answer: None that I could think of other than playing dawnsong frickin LOUD !!
Year four of rebound: February 2020. Bluebirds claim and commit to alternate housing. THEN I raise six gourds on a 16 ft pole. Lo and behold ....... I've got a colony again. 6-8 birds swooping, chirping, chortling ...... the whole 9. Plus bluebirds in THEIR house 30 feet away. Bottom predator guard. No owl guard.
Future plans: I'm a firm believer in small colony size to avoid predator attention. I'll add a couple of gourds next year to the same pole but keep total number no more than 10 max. I'm NOT gonna enshroud the whole gourd assembly with a giant wire basket. Too much work. Not my style.
So there you have it. If you're not getting birds, watch, think, and change something.
Best of luck.
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