Yet another new member with a question (or two)

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johncanfield
Posts: 59
Joined: Mon May 04, 2020 5:13 pm
Location: Texas

Hi PM landlords, we're in the Texas Hill Country - about 80 miles NW of San Antonio. I have a 12 unit Troyer gourd that I can raise and lower on an aluminum pole with two decoys at the top. This has been up for maybe five or six years and I usually have two or three nesting pairs every year. This year we counted 10 flying around over the housing. The pole is in a good location, maybe 75' from the house with long flyways and a close power line drop where they like to perch. Our oak trees are all <=15' tall - that's as tall as they can get in our area.

We have at least two gourds with sparrows and I've seen a sparrow going into one of the gourds that a PM had claimed. I just put out two sparrow traps but no joy so far.

Questions:

- I've never lowered the gourds while the martins are nesting, but I know I should. How upsetting will this be to the martins?

- After the martins are gone I lower, remove and clean the gourds until next season - should I be cleaning them every year? One time I got covered in mites while removing nesting material. A neighbor on our north side has non-gourd PM housing on top of a dedicated telephone pole and it's never been cleaned out yet they usually have martins flying around.

- Last season I prepped the gourds with pine needles but I couldn't tell if this made any difference. The closest pine tree is probably 300 miles away from us. Should I put some nesting material in the gourds when I raise the gourds at the season start?

Thanks for reading this, I want to be a good landlord.

John
John
JJ Ranch
Texas Hill Country
deancamp
Posts: 412
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:17 pm
Location: Raymore, MO

John, lowering the gourds while the Martins are nesting will not affect them at all. Wait until mid afternoon when they are normally out and about anyway. By lowering your gourds while there are young in the nest you will be able to catch potential problems such as the mites you mentioned. Treat the nest with seven dust or swap it out for a new nest. Yes you should clean the nest out after each season to rid any pests that might winter over there. As for the pine needles, I don't believe it is mandatory they will do fine without the prenesting. If you like put some nesting material out on the ground or nearby for them to access easily, again I'm sure this isn't neccessary, but is kind of fun.
johncanfield
Posts: 59
Joined: Mon May 04, 2020 5:13 pm
Location: Texas

Ah, good plan about waiting to mid-afternoon to lower the apartments, I have noticed a lack of activity then. Thanks for the tips, much appreciated!

John
John
JJ Ranch
Texas Hill Country
Sharon - Central TX
Posts: 643
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

John,
I’m in Texas too. We did a nest check two days ago. It was in the late afternoon. The martins had not left all day so we decided they would just have to deal with it :lol: They weren’t happy, kept flying around and as soon as we finished our first pole of Troyer gourds, they immediately went back in. Same with second pole. One female decided she wasn’t going to move no matter what. Had the same thing happen in a different gourd the prior check. But what a fruitful nestcheck. The 6 day check prior we counted 23 eggs. Six days later we had 95!
My husband cleans all gourds thoroughly after the martins have left the area. It’s not a fun job, is messy and smelly. He wears a face mask and gloves. He has on occasion found a dead bird or eggs that never hatched.
We put aspen bedding with a little Sevin dust in the fresh gourds just prior to the birds arriving. I don’t know if they appreciate it but it makes us feel better. Especially when we have an extremely cold night.
We have neighbors that never do a thing with their houses. They have no idea how many young they have or how many have fledged. They also have sparrow nests in many of the compartments but don’t seem to care. They think our way is overkill but it’s really because we want to do the best we can to provide a healthy environment and help the Martin population grow. They already have enough enemies out there without having to fight them within what should be their safe place.
I’ll get off my soap box now :) .
johncanfield
Posts: 59
Joined: Mon May 04, 2020 5:13 pm
Location: Texas

Thanks Sharon, I really appreciate hearing about your experiences with your gourds. Last year I found a dead martin in the entrance after I was cleaning out the gourds, I'm fairly sure it was an adult (I forgot if it was facing in or out.) I suppose they expire from old age like the rest of us or maybe disease. We raise blackbuck antelope on our ranch and I've had babies die on me as well as adults, it never gets any easier to lose animals.

I've heard conflicting opinions about using Sevin dust, it appears folks here use it successfully from what Ive read.

John
John
JJ Ranch
Texas Hill Country
Sharon - Central TX
Posts: 643
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

John,
We spend a lot of time in Boerne so I know how beautiful the hill country is. We always go the back way on 281 then hop onto Hwy 46 instead of taking the freeway for that exact reason. We pass a lot of ranches that have exotic animals. Are your blackbuck antelopes considered exotic?
Yes, anytime you lose an animal of any kind it hurts. We lost two dogs 3 weeks apart last November and we’re still having a hard time adjusting to their loss.
Dave Duit
Posts: 1756
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: Iowa / Nevada
Martin Colony History: In 2020, 60 pair with 285 fledged youngsters. 83 total cavities available, 58 Troyer Horizontal gourds and 4 modified deep trio metal house units, 1 fallout shelter, owl cages around all units. Martin educator and speaker. President and founder of the Iowa Purple Martin Organization. Please visit www.iamartin.org and join.

Hi John,
I'll be short and sweet with my input. The afternoon is the best time to do nest checks and it will not cause the martins to abandon their colony. If you are pre-nesting, be sure you are using the SOFT white pine needles and not the prickly type of pine needles. Sevin is fine, sprinkle a little under the nest and around the edges but never on the babies where the lay. Try to eliminate the sparrows at all costs. If you are using a trap, keep in mind that a trap needs to be monitored constantly in case a martin gets trapped. A pellet gun does wonders for sparrow and starling elimination; always make sure not to shoot toward the gourds or housing as the pellet may accidentally hit a martin or a nesting youngster. Pulling sparrow nests out only infuriates the sparrows and they will take their anger out on your martins. I use a product called avian insect liquidator (AIL) for mite control. I buy it in concentrate then dilute it down according to instructions for a spray bottle.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
Dave Duit
Posts: 1756
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: Iowa / Nevada
Martin Colony History: In 2020, 60 pair with 285 fledged youngsters. 83 total cavities available, 58 Troyer Horizontal gourds and 4 modified deep trio metal house units, 1 fallout shelter, owl cages around all units. Martin educator and speaker. President and founder of the Iowa Purple Martin Organization. Please visit www.iamartin.org and join.

An additional note. Sorry to say that your neighbor's telephone pole martin set up is a terrible thing because he can't do weekly nest checks. When I first started with martins I read everything I could about martins on the PMCA website, especially the purple martin, research, and education areas in the purple headers section.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
Bob Rogers
Posts: 226
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2004 6:48 pm
Location: Arnold, Missouri

John,
Please lower your gourd rack to clean/destroy English sparrow nests as needed. Also any starling that are attracted to your colony. LEAVING THEM CO-HABIT with your martins is a sure disaster! Both foreign species will roll out martin eggs and/or peck holes in the martin eggs or babies and thus kill them. Like staying at home during the current covid-19 issue, not pleasant, but must be done! After I destroy there nests I give a spray of liquid 7 into each gourd to kill the parasites they often carry. I have to trap or kill these pest birds, as cleaning the nests out will not always get them to move on. Some landlords don't agree with my methods,but my martin colony has continued to grow over the years from 2 pair to over 45/50 pairs and even higher this year. Good luck.
Bob R.
johncanfield
Posts: 59
Joined: Mon May 04, 2020 5:13 pm
Location: Texas

Sharon - Central TX wrote:
Sat May 09, 2020 3:08 pm
John,
We spend a lot of time in Boerne so I know how beautiful the hill country is. We always go the back way on 281 then hop onto Hwy 46 instead of taking the freeway for that exact reason. We pass a lot of ranches that have exotic animals. Are your blackbuck antelopes considered exotic?
Yes, anytime you lose an animal of any kind it hurts. We lost two dogs 3 weeks apart last November and we’re still having a hard time adjusting to their loss.
Hi again Sharon. Yes, the blackuck antelope are exotics being brought to this area in the 1930s from India. There's supposed to be more blackbuck in our county (Kerr) than are left in India. There's all kinds of exotics here - fallow deer, axis deer, aoudad deer, camels and one of my ranching friends has several zebras. Our neighbor moved several years ago and insisted we take her pet axis deer so we have him in a very large pen. He's like a 175 pound puppy dog, loves to be curried and scratched.
Dave Duit wrote:
Sat May 09, 2020 7:49 pm
An additional note. Sorry to say that your neighbor's telephone pole martin set up is a terrible thing because he can't do weekly nest checks. When I first started with martins I read everything I could about martins on the PMCA website, especially the purple martin, research, and education areas in the purple headers section.
The previous owner put up the martin house, he wasn't thinking and apparently did zero research. I have a boom lift, I was thinking about volunteering to clean it out or take it down but I'm not sure I want to get involved. He's a bit of an odd duck.

I took a shot at a sparrow behind the house yesterday, it was on the ground gathering twigs. I got close but no cigar, I was going to use my .22 rifle with a scope but in the interest of saving time I grabbed my .22 handgun. I've used .22 birdshot in prior years with good results (cowbirds.)

I haven't seen any starlings so at least that's one pest bird we don't have. One of my sparrow traps caught a mouse yesterday, I'm very surprised one of the barn cats didn't get him.

A big thank you to everyone for all of the tips and recommendations. I'll get some Sevin dust and look for that AIL I'll lower the gourds this afternoon and have a look.

John
John
JJ Ranch
Texas Hill Country
Dave Duit
Posts: 1756
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: Iowa / Nevada
Martin Colony History: In 2020, 60 pair with 285 fledged youngsters. 83 total cavities available, 58 Troyer Horizontal gourds and 4 modified deep trio metal house units, 1 fallout shelter, owl cages around all units. Martin educator and speaker. President and founder of the Iowa Purple Martin Organization. Please visit www.iamartin.org and join.

That is very nice of you to clean out the odd ducks house. I hope all goes well for you this season.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
johncanfield
Posts: 59
Joined: Mon May 04, 2020 5:13 pm
Location: Texas

I did my very first nest check about an hour ago, there were only about three or four Martins in or around the gourds. When I lowered it they were flying around overhead but they weren't dive bombing me so I suppose they weren't too upset.

I pulled out two complete sparrow nests but I wasn't sure about the identity of a third one so I left it. Every one on my 12 gourds had nesting material so I'm certain 9 gourds have Martin nesting. Two or three of them had some green leaves but no eggs.

After I raised the gourds it only took a minute or so for the Martins to return.
John
JJ Ranch
Texas Hill Country
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