Newbie/Wannabe Landlord - Questions

Welcome to the internet's gathering place for Purple Martin enthusiasts
Post Reply
Rusty_Griswald
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun May 10, 2020 9:35 am
Location: Sterling, NE

Hello, I apologize in advance for the long message. The more I read, study, and learn about Purple Martins, the more I strive to become a landlord.

While this is, technically, my 2nd year at attempting to start a colony, I soon realized that my attempt last year was doomed from the start. I found a martin house and pole while cleaning out my Dad's barn and took it home and put it up. I didn't do any research or have a clue what I was doing and was naive in thinking that the martins would just show up, eventually. After 2-3 months, I did finally have 2 martins visit, albeit a short visit as they were quickly driven off by sparrows and a fight with a king bird. After that, I began doing my homework though as I was thrilled to see the martins and quickly became obsessed with them and wanted to see more of them since they were so fun to see and watch.

I now know that my first attempt was doomed from the start since I put the house too close to trees, too far away from my house/garage, and did nothing to deter/exterminate the sparrows. Over the winter and early spring I did my homework and read as much info as I could find about getting started. I then ordered an S&K 12 room house with a telescoping pole and decoys. The kit I ordered also came with the Purple Martin book by Stokes & Brown. I found a lot of additional useful information in that book and in turn found this site and forum.

Now this season, I have been vigorously monitoring the scout migration map with eager anticipation for the martins to reach my location (southeast Nebraska) again. As the reports started coming in, I also found out that there was an already established colony just 2 miles away from me. That house is located in town and I am on an acreage in the country but I was thrilled to see that that colony already had martins at it during the first 1-2 weeks of April.

After seeing those martins, I rushed home and put up my S&K house. However, I didn't finish my homework yet and wish that I would have done so as I didn't make any modifications to the house and just put it up brand new out of the box. It had 12 - 6"x6"x6" rooms and I thought I was all set. I did quickly get a visit from an adult male and female and they even checked out some of the rooms. They came and went all day and I thought I was on my way. Then they were gone by the next day. I then started exploring this forum and found that I needed to make my house more enticing to them so I added a little bit of mud and modified my house to only 6 rooms that were now 6"x6"x12". I also ordered and set up my Dawn Song bird magnet and again thought that I was all set. The next morning, 10 minutes after playing the dawn song, I had a lone adult male show up. He flew around the house and then perched on top right next to the 2 decoys. I never did see him enter the house though but when he showed back up the next day, I thought I was all set. But then, he was gone again and never to be seen from again.

I then came back to this forum and continued my homework. I have now added some pine needles that I shaped into make shift bowls to hopefully give the impression that the house had been used in the past. I have also added a few mirrors and painted the roof white. Unfortunately, I have not witnessed any visitors again, which has been about 2 weeks since my last visitor. I really wish that I had made the modifications prior to putting up my house as I think they may have found it more favorable and possibly would have stayed rather than just visit. I have not witnessed any new visitors since I've made the modifications and am hoping I haven't done anything to spook the visitors, that I've already had, away.

That being said, I know that patience seems to be the name of the game when first trying to start a colony, so I am (impatiently) waiting/hoping for another visitor(s) with hopes that the next visitor accepts my modifications and likes what he finds well enough to stay. A few questions I've got while I wait:

-my wife and I live on an acreage that is in close proximity to a forest. I've done my best to be sure to leave no less than 40' of open space between the nearest trees, which some are pretty tall, and also made sure my S&K house was between the 40'-100' distance from my house/garage. My question is, with the forest being so close, will that deter martins from ever nesting in my martin house? The fact that I've had visitors encourages me that they might eventually nest and not just visit but I'm wondering if anyone else has had success being in such close proximity to a forest? They do have easy access to a pond nearby that is out in a wide open cow pasture and another CRP grass field that is also wide open with few trees, perfect places to find bugs and water.

-according to the scout migration map, a few sub adults have been making their way into my area. But it's been unseasonably cold (20-30 degrees below average and down into the 30's-40's overnight) and I'm wondering if that will slow down the arrival of the sub-adults? The colony in town a few miles from me has a lot of activity but I can't tell whether any of those martins are sub-adults or not.

-if/when I do get martins to occupy the house, are there options to purchase a predator guard and snake netting for the S&K pole?

-i've been playing the dawn song bird magnet 24/7 for the past 2 weeks. should I continue to do that? is it more beneficial to point it towards the colony nearby me, which is to my north, or face it south and try to intercept incoming sub-adults coming up from the south? The magnet doesn't seem very loud even with it turned up to full volume.

-I currently have 2 decoys attached on perches sitting atop my martin house. should I add more decoys? should I place them on the porches or sides of the house rather than on top? Does it matter where they are located as long as a real martin can pick them up when flying over?

-i lower my pole to 10' when the wind is at or above 20mph. could that be deterring any newcomers/visitors? I have no choice but to lower it during windy conditions as I am afraid the pole will bend or break if i don't. but I'm wondering if that will in turn also lead to longer lead times in my goal of finding an occupant.

-i've been vigilant about keeping the sparrows out of the house and have shot many of them already but also realize they likely come to the house when i am gone. i hope that i've thinned them out enough but i know that i haven't completely eliminated them all. should i leave the holes open 24/7 or close them when i'm gone and am unable to monitor them? i expect the sub-adults to be coming through my area now (unless I've already missed them) and for the next 3-4 weeks so I'd like to leave the holes open...and keep shooting sparrows.

Thank you for your time and again I apologize for the long message. My wife gives me a hard time already that she thinks I'm becoming addicted to purple martins and I don't even have any nesting yet. What happens if you do get some to nest, she says? I've assured her that she will enjoy watching them as much as I do when that time comes. Until then, I'll continue to drive by the nest a few miles up the road from me and day dream about having a colony of my own.
jhcox
Posts: 489
Joined: Thu May 26, 2016 9:23 am
Location: tennesse
Martin Colony History: Started colony in 2014. First pair to stay and raise young in 2018.

Hey rusty do you have the red and silver S&K barn with the tri pole if so I have one of them and it has withstood winds as high a 40mph and never bent at the least. But I don’t put mine to the highest holes. And if you have modified the house the attic area is a great place to put one of the green Song bird magnet boxes. It has a settings for the purple Martin Dawn Song. If you put it in the attic and place the speaker into one of the attic entrance holes it works really well that way. It also elevates the sound higher into the sky. Another suggestion is place one decoy into a cavity on a nest. It will help convince the Martins that stop by that the site is being used. Hope this help good luck and have a great season.
Ryan
Posts: 280
Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2006 4:19 pm
Location: Eganville, Ontario
Martin Colony History: Visitors are rare. Three SY males seen in 10 years.

I'm no martin professional, but I'm unfortunately becoming a professional for waiting for martins. I think you're in good shape, don't sweat the birds that left, there will be more. Be patient, it takes time. I'm in year 10 and you've already seen more martins than I have in 10 years.

You're lucky you're only 2 miles from a colony. You're already in good shape. I'd maybe point the speaker at that colony even though it's north. That colony will bring in birds and they may be drawn to your sound as well. You could put the speaker on a timer instead of 24 hours a day and go from 4 am to evening if you want to give your wife a break. I only do 4:30 to early afternoon as I'm pushing it with neighbours and want to use my dawnsong time wisely. If the speaker is easy to move (turn) you could point it both south and north to the colony and change things up once and a while. Pointing it with the wind also helps send that song further on breezy days.

-I'd maybe look into upgrading that pole in the off season. Not sure of dropping the house to 10 feet on windy days will deter them, but it certainly is a pain for you.

-I think you still have time for Second Years, don't throw the towel in yet. Everything seems slow this year on migration with the cold.

-I think two decoys is good, you don't need to add a bunch more.

-I've never used the sing bird magnet, but have an old fashioned CD player from the early 2000's that is programmed to play. I hard wire speaker wire to a power horn and that gives me sound distance. You may want to look at that, those old stereos are dirt cheap, but hard to find the ones with set play times...you may find a used one for peanuts for next year.

Good luck.
Home site: 12 cedar chalets - Plus two satellite sites which are also empty.
2010- 1 SY male on and off for a couple weeks
2011- 0 visits
2012- 0 visits
2013- 0 visits
2014- 1 SY male stopped in here and there for two weeks.
2015- 0 visits
2016- 0 visits
2017- 0 visits
2018- 0 visits
2019- Break-through year. Had a SY Male stop in on June 7th and stay all day, every day until end of June and built a nest. Hoping he returns in 2020 because I'm getting tired of updating this list.
jhcox
Posts: 489
Joined: Thu May 26, 2016 9:23 am
Location: tennesse
Martin Colony History: Started colony in 2014. First pair to stay and raise young in 2018.

Ryan the song bird magnet is great and it’s just small enough to fit in the attic of the barn style house you just run the power cord down the pole and to a timer. It also puts your speaker higher in the air which is always a good thing. The main key Rusty is don’t give up you are already ahead of the game with a colony just 2 miles from your home. The birds at that colony will surely investigate the Dawn song at your site with them being that close. You might even pull a few SY birds from that sight. Keep looking to the sky. It took me 3 years to get my first mating pair now in my 3rd year as a landlord I’ve got over 30 PM that’s not a huge number but it’s growing one year to the next.
Rusty_Griswald
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun May 10, 2020 9:35 am
Location: Sterling, NE

jhcox wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 12:31 pm
Hey rusty do you have the red and silver S&K barn with the tri pole if so I have one of them and it has withstood winds as high a 40mph and never bent at the least. But I don’t put mine to the highest holes. And if you have modified the house the attic area is a great place to put one of the green Song bird magnet boxes. It has a settings for the purple Martin Dawn Song. If you put it in the attic and place the speaker into one of the attic entrance holes it works really well that way. It also elevates the sound higher into the sky. Another suggestion is place one decoy into a cavity on a nest. It will help convince the Martins that stop by that the site is being used. Hope this help good luck and have a great season.
I've got the S&K house, not the barn. It seems to hold up fairly well in the wind up to 20-25mph but it gets to swaying pretty good. I don't want to push it any further than that and risk it bending or breaking. It's easy to raise/lower so it's not too much of a hassle. Maybe I'll try placing a decoy inside one of the holes, I haven't tried that yet but it makes sense. Thank you for the idea!
Rusty_Griswald
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun May 10, 2020 9:35 am
Location: Sterling, NE

jhcox wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 3:04 pm
Ryan the song bird magnet is great and it’s just small enough to fit in the attic of the barn style house you just run the power cord down the pole and to a timer. It also puts your speaker higher in the air which is always a good thing. The main key Rusty is don’t give up you are already ahead of the game with a colony just 2 miles from your home. The birds at that colony will surely investigate the Dawn song at your site with them being that close. You might even pull a few SY birds from that sight. Keep looking to the sky. It took me 3 years to get my first mating pair now in my 3rd year as a landlord I’ve got over 30 PM that’s not a huge number but it’s growing one year to the next.
Thank you; I definitely will not give up and will continue to fight off sparrows and doing my best to make the house as inviting as possible for martins. Congratulations on getting your site going! I know that patience is key when getting started so I'll keep trying and if I don't get any to nest this year, at least I've learned a great deal from this forum and from the PMCA and feel much more equipped and ready for next season. I'd really feel good about my odds if I can get some more visitors this summer but even more so if a few stop by towards the end of the year before they head back south. As suggested, I'll leave my house up until August/September and hopefully increase my odds for next year...but I'm still holding out hope that I can entice a SY to find me yet this season.
Rusty_Griswald
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun May 10, 2020 9:35 am
Location: Sterling, NE

Ryan wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 1:17 pm
I'm no martin professional, but I'm unfortunately becoming a professional for waiting for martins. I think you're in good shape, don't sweat the birds that left, there will be more. Be patient, it takes time. I'm in year 10 and you've already seen more martins than I have in 10 years.

You're lucky you're only 2 miles from a colony. You're already in good shape. I'd maybe point the speaker at that colony even though it's north. That colony will bring in birds and they may be drawn to your sound as well. You could put the speaker on a timer instead of 24 hours a day and go from 4 am to evening if you want to give your wife a break. I only do 4:30 to early afternoon as I'm pushing it with neighbours and want to use my dawnsong time wisely. If the speaker is easy to move (turn) you could point it both south and north to the colony and change things up once and a while. Pointing it with the wind also helps send that song further on breezy days.

-I'd maybe look into upgrading that pole in the off season. Not sure of dropping the house to 10 feet on windy days will deter them, but it certainly is a pain for you.

-I think you still have time for Second Years, don't throw the towel in yet. Everything seems slow this year on migration with the cold.

-I think two decoys is good, you don't need to add a bunch more.

-I've never used the sing bird magnet, but have an old fashioned CD player from the early 2000's that is programmed to play. I hard wire speaker wire to a power horn and that gives me sound distance. You may want to look at that, those old stereos are dirt cheap, but hard to find the ones with set play times...you may find a used one for peanuts for next year.

Good luck.
Wow, that is great of you to continue to fight the good fight and not give up after 10 years! That is admirable, to say the least. I wish you success and nothing but the best.

Thank you for the recommendations, I will try them out. I'll also look into upgrading poles for next year. It's not a major hassle to lower it before/after storms or windy days but I'd hate to have it bend or break if there was more weight in it, if I do happen to get lucky and have some nesting martins.

Thanks again and best of luck to you!
killerv
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2020 9:40 am
Location: Central Ga

Sounds like you may be a little over anxious. You did right by making the rooms bigger. I initially had mine with 12 but as soon as i switched to 6, had nesters within a week or two. Sounds like you have enough space too. Be patient. Im assuming there is water nearby?
Rusty_Griswald
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun May 10, 2020 9:35 am
Location: Sterling, NE

killerv wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 3:18 pm
Sounds like you may be a little over anxious. You did right by making the rooms bigger. I initially had mine with 12 but as soon as i switched to 6, had nesters within a week or two. Sounds like you have enough space too. Be patient. Im assuming there is water nearby?
Yeah, there are a few different farm ponds very close by that I would think would be great for them to swoop down for a drink. They are wide open with few trees but not real big but still plenty big for them to drink. I’m sure I’m just over anxious but was just wanting to be sure I wasn’t doing something I shouldn’t or if there was anything else I could be doing to increase my odds. I’ll try and be patient and hope for the best. Thank you!
deancamp
Posts: 412
Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:17 pm
Location: Raymore, MO

Rusty, keep the dawn song going, that is your number 1 attractant to pull them in to have a look. Your predator guards can be diy if you can't purchase one specifically for your pole. The snake netting is just a bird netting which is fastened around the pole with a wire frame. I do think the cold weather will slow things down, hopefully not for long. 10' is not a bad height, make sure everything else is good and I don't think that will deter them if they like your site. I would keep your holes open and keep eliminating the sparrows. You wouldn't want them to be closed if they are interested and your not home. Good luck
Rusty_Griswald
Posts: 12
Joined: Sun May 10, 2020 9:35 am
Location: Sterling, NE

deancamp wrote:
Wed May 13, 2020 5:09 pm
Rusty, keep the dawn song going, that is your number 1 attractant to pull them in to have a look. Your predator guards can be diy if you can't purchase one specifically for your pole. The snake netting is just a bird netting which is fastened around the pole with a wire frame. I do think the cold weather will slow things down, hopefully not for long. 10' is not a bad height, make sure everything else is good and I don't think that will deter them if they like your site. I would keep your holes open and keep eliminating the sparrows. You wouldn't want them to be closed if they are interested and your not home. Good luck
Sounds good, thank you for the advice. I’ve got plenty of bb’s for the sparrows and will look into some predator guard options or build something myself while I have an eye on the sky. I appreciate the advice.
Post Reply