Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Welcome to the internet's gathering place for Purple Martin enthusiasts
Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4332
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Steve Kroenke » Sat Oct 05, 2019 9:17 am

Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

I finally lowered all my gourd racks and houses and just started some cleaning! I removed the doors and nest trays from my two Trendsetter houses but still need to clean out the rooms. Just started cleaning some of the gourds but haven’t taken them off the racks yet. After cleaning the gourds, my plan is to place them in a new utility building which I haven’t bought yet!

When I clean my plastic gourds, I usually don’t wash out the insides but will clean off mold/mildew and martin poop from the outsides. A bleach and water potion does a good job. I generally dump out the old nests but leave any dirt scar on the bottom and sides of the gourds. Why leave the scar? I believe martins like that lived in look and they readily nest in cavities with old nests in them. Plus the dirt scar helps create a rustic surface on the slick plastic and this may help to keep nesting material from sliding around too much. Before I raise my housing for the next martin season, I always pre-nest my gourds and houses with a substantial nest of pine straw and sometimes even add a handful of dry oak leaves to the nest bowl. My pre-nests blend nicely with any dirt scar.

I do wash out the rooms on my Trendsetters with a hose as the dirt can clog up the tracks where the doors slide in and out. Too much accumulated dirt in the rooms may interfere with the ease of inserting and removing the nest trays. Plus the Trendsetter porches and roofs do become covered with martin poop which may require washing to remove. I dump out the nest trays but don’t scrub them clean. My nest trays are painted dark brown.

I will treat my houses and gourds with Sevin to kill any parasites that may overwinter. Before I raise the housing in January I add a small amount of Sevin (1/4 to ½ teaspoon) to the nesting material to help control any parasites that the martins bring with them. Later in the season I may re-treat with Sevin if I find parasites such as mites in the gourds/houses during nest checks.

My martin colony did well in 2019 and I attracted between 340 and 350 pairs of martins. I believe 1200+ martins fledged. My next door neighbor Bob attracted between 150 and 200 pairs of martins and fledged well over 500 youngsters. So we hosted 500+ pairs of martins and probably fledged close to 2000 babies.

I replaced two of my 12 room Trendsetters with two new 24 gourd Super Systems; there are two Trendsetters remaining, a 12 room house and a 16 room house. I took the Trendsetters down and gifted them to a good friend who has a thriving martin colony. Both Super Systems are on the old ground stakes for the Trendsetters, but I still need to install the winches on both poles. Forty-eight new Troyer Horizontal gourds with tunnels/porches will be on both racks next year. I still like the Trendsetters a lot and they are my favorite house, but I prefer gourd racks. My gourds are usually better occupied than houses as gourds provide more territorial privacy between pairs and tend to minimize nest domination behavior. I will eventually replace the remaining two Trendsetters with gourd racks but will keep the houses for the 2020 season.

Here are some photos of my martin colony with the gourd racks and houses lowered. If you look closely, you may be able to see the two new 24 gourd Super Systems that replaced the Trendsetter houses. I still need to add winches to the poles and eventually the gourds. For some reason the photos when linked from Photobucket don’t link in full size to the Forum. In the past I believe they did! I don’t know if this is a Photobucket or Forum issue or maybe me!

Image

Image

Image
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season

Rodger Drye
Posts: 660
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.

Re: Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Rodger Drye » Tue Oct 08, 2019 8:16 pm

Looking good Steve. My grandson came and helped me 2 or 3 weeks ago to take my gourds down wash them out and dip in a 9 to 1 Bleach solution. He was a lot of help and it still took us 2 complete days to accomplish the task at hand. When the gourds have all been cleaned and dried I place them in a 3’ x3’ x 8’ box (that I built) which fits on the forks of my tractor. Then I transport them to my metal workshop / building. Quicker than running back and forth with the UTV. I’m like you and do not scrub the insides. Just wash out all old nesting material and do the bleach dip. Each gourd is stored with pre nest pine needles and a tea spoon of sevin for next year.
I had 90 pair of Martins and still fledged over 400 birds.
I have finally completed a new rack (the Nitro - D) that I designed. It will hold up to 54 gourds on 3 tiers, but I’ll only place 36 gourds on 2 tiers and add my first T-14 for next year. That will give me 174 cavities total and I will not add any more. It’s quite a job taking care of this many birds with nest checks and all. With all the birds you have I know you have your hands full. I also had 200 x 2 individual Exterior Aluminum Gourd Numbers made up that I mounted on each of my front gourds and on each of the individual Doors with SS Bolts & Lock Nuts. They really look Awesome. Just got tired of marking them with Black Markers and having the numbers fade out each year. It took some time to get this done but in the end I think well worth it.
Respectfully,

Rodger Drye
PMCA Member
Have been Hosting and Protecting Martin's for 30 years.

Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4332
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Re: Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Steve Kroenke » Fri Oct 11, 2019 6:15 pm

Rodger,

I know you are glad to have someone help with cleaning your gourds! I have started cleaning out the gourds and have done several racks. I still need to wash off the outsides. Still haven't bought that new utility building yet! There is a business down the road and across the river in Texas that sells buildings and that is where I will eventually buy my new one.

Looks like you have a good system in place to take care of your gourds after the season! The bleach along with the Sevin should do a good job of eliminating any parasites that may be "thinking about" overwintering in your gourds! Of course, martins may bring some parasites with them and a little Sevin can help control pests such as mites.

You had a great martin season with 90 pairs and fledging over 400 youngsters! And with your expansion you will fledge even more martins to help increase the population. One year I had a bunch of my nestlings banded and survivors did spread out and one of my banded youngsters returned the next year and traveled about 100 miles north of my martin colony to another colony in Texas.

Is your new rack, the Nitro-D, a ring or crossbar type system or something else? My favorite gourd rack is the Gemini with two rings. I have four of them and each holds 24 gourds. They are usually 100% occupied by martins each season.

Your Gourd Numbering system sounds creative and functional! With that system, no more fading marker numbers.

I am glad you had a great martin season and thanks for sharing information about your colony.

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season

Rodger Drye
Posts: 660
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.

Re: Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Rodger Drye » Sun Oct 13, 2019 6:35 pm

Hey Steve,

So sorry I haven’t gotten back to you before now. Have been so busy. We have 13 grandchildren and they are always wanting us to come watch them play their individual sports. Needless to say we stay on the go. I’m sure you will like it when you get your new building to winter your Gourds in. Was surprised to hear that the PMCA does not recommend or endorse the use of sevin around Martins. My Dad used Sevin and Sulfur for years and he really had a lot of Birds each year.
Steve, do you also band Martins.? I don’t use Sulfur but I do use Sevin dust and the liquid. It bothers me to see those little chicks being eaten alive from those mites, and there again I don’t place or spray it directly on them, but dust the inside of the Gourd and spray the outside.

My new rack is sort of a mixture of both. The inside rings are Aluminum welded tubing 1” x 1” with a round rod that can be inserted and extended 2’ out. A picture is worth a thousand words and if I ever learn how to take and post pictures you’ll see that it’s really a simple design. If I had to do over again I’d use 1” x 1” Aluminum Angle which would be easier to break down, thus assisting in the marketing process. I want to produce a rack that has little or no welding and one that can be marketed easily and profitably. Like they say back to the drawing board. I want to see how this rack is functional before I make any more changes. There will probably be several. Things like this as you can imagine take time and money.

I have 1 Gemini Rack which attracts a 100% occupancy, using Troyer Horizontal Gourds. My birds really like those Horizontal Gourds. Most of my other Gourds are BO-11 with Ultimate Tunnels. That gives the birds 14” nesting area and a 3 “ horizontal tunnel. My birds really like these Gourds too, and it gives them plenty of room.

Wow, you and your neighbor had a Super Year fledging 2000 babies. That’s a lot of Birds.

I use the 5/8” Hex Drive Winches on all my Poles and Racks. If you or your neighbor ever need any Winch Handles just let me know and you can have all that I have.

Sincerely,
Rodger
PMCA Member
Have been Hosting and Protecting Martin's for 30 years.

Rodger Drye
Posts: 660
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.

Re: Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Rodger Drye » Tue Oct 15, 2019 12:51 am

Hey Steve;

I want to correct something in my last post. The BO-11 gourds are 11 inches inside with 3 inch tunnels. With a total of 14 inches in depth...

Thanks,

Rodger
PMCA Member
Have been Hosting and Protecting Martin's for 30 years.

Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4332
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Re: Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Steve Kroenke » Tue Oct 15, 2019 6:29 am

Hey Rodger,

Wow, 13 grandkids to keep y'all busy! Hopefully they will become future purple martin landlords!

I've used Sevin since the mid-60s when I was a teenager. Sure helps to control mites.

Other martin landlords use the nest replacement method and that is another way to minimize parasite issues in the martin nests.

Yes, pictures are the best way to "describe" a gourd rack! It is easier to post photos on Facebook and I can upload the photos directly from my computer to the PMCA's Facebook page. I use the Photobucket approach with the Forum, but the photos now link in a smaller format. Don't know why! Probably something I'm doing!

If your gourd rack design incorporates both a ring and crossbar approach, that should be a good combination. Have the gourds with some space between them and try to keep the entrances somewhat "private" and not too close or facing each other to help minimize nest domination issues. I use Geminis, K24s, and Super Systems and all have near 100 % occupancy levels each season. There are always a few pairs of super aggressive martins that just will not stop dominating an additional gourd on some racks!

I only had some of my nestlings banded one year. I believe 157 were banded and all were from gourds. The next year I had one of the banded martins come back as a SY male and he nested in a Trendsetter, not a gourd. He continued to return as an ASY male for at least four more years and returned to the same Trendsetter and compartment. Some others came back as SYs and nested in gourds. Most apparently spread out to the other colonies and my neighbor Bob got some of them.

In my colony, the Troyer Horizontal gourd is the most popular with martins and so far is always the first gourd to be occupied each season. But eventually all the designs I use fill up with martins. This includes Super Gourd with inside/outside porches, Excluders with inside/outside porches, and Troyer Verticals with tunnels/porches. I believe the greater depth of the Troyer Horizontals gives the martins, particularly the females which actually select the male and his territory a sense of security and helps conceal the martins deep inside the gourd.

I've don't use any S&K gourds but many folks do with good results.

I hope to buy my new utility building this month and finally get all those gourds in it!

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season

Rodger Drye
Posts: 660
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.

Re: Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Rodger Drye » Wed Oct 16, 2019 8:09 pm

Steve,

That will be great when you get your building for your gourds. Where do you store your gourds now? I stored mine in a storage building I built some years ago. Now with my transport box, I’m hoping to make the moving part happen quicker.

I do like the BO-11 gourds from S&K as long as they’re modified with an ultimate tunnel. The birds really like them too. And they are a lot cheaper than Troyers’. I will have to admit Troyer Gourds are the best over all hands down. Actually I have several Big Bo gourds modified with ultimate tunnels and my birds seem to fill them up first. Sadly, You can’t buy the Big BO’s anymore.

Actually I made several homemade gourds out of SDR 10” sewer pipe and modified them with the ultimate tunnel. Just experimenting I didn’t know if the birds would take to them or not. They loved them and ever one I have is filled each year.
That SDR is over 1/4 inch thick and should last forever. The SDR is naturally a light green color but the birds don’t seem to mind.

Rodger
PMCA Member
Have been Hosting and Protecting Martin's for 30 years.

Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4332
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Re: Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Steve Kroenke » Fri Oct 18, 2019 9:01 pm

Hey Rodger,

I had bought a utility building just for my gourds several years ago. Well, that didn't last long as "other stuff" started accumulating in it and before long it was about full!

I have been putting my gourds under my carport and that provides some protection from the weather. I have been piling them up.

In the past I made single unit wooden houses that were similar to oversize bluebird boxes. I suspended them on crossbars just like regular gourds and martins thrived in them. These were vertically deep cavities with entrances cut 6 or more inches above the floors.

I know some landlords have used PVC pipe to create martin houses and these have attracted martins. So your approach using sewer pipe is probably similar.

Martins are versatile and will probably nest in many "cavity looking" sites! I have seen them nesting in business signs, outdoor parking lights, holes in buildings, and other cavity looking places around buildings.

Right now I have 48 new Troyer Horizontals with tunnels/porches that I'm drilling vent holes in the upper two back canopies of each gourd. All these gourds will be suspended on my two new 24 gourd Super Systems.

Purple martin time will be here before you know it!

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season

Rodger Drye
Posts: 660
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.

Re: Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Rodger Drye » Sat Oct 19, 2019 4:43 pm

Hey Steve,

Just curious do the birds readily accept a house that has a 6 inch floor drop? Can they get out of the house without to much trouble? Most all my Gourds don’t have that much fall. And even the Troyer Horizontals have rubber tread walk ramps.

I too modify my THG’s with vent ports at the upper back of the Gourd.

Well got to run to my 50th High School Reunion.
Talk at ya later.

Rodger
PMCA Member
Have been Hosting and Protecting Martin's for 30 years.

Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4332
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Re: Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Steve Kroenke » Sun Oct 20, 2019 5:25 am

Hey Rodger,

Martins have readily nested in my vertically deep gourds/houses. Martins have nested for thousands of years in really deep woodpecker cavities. Martins have sharp nails and can climb up rustic surfaces just like they have done for thousands of years in natural cavities in trees. So martins can nest in such cavities, particularly natural gourds or a rustic wooden surface like cedar. I have seen martin fledglings land near the base of a tree and climb up the tree using their sharp nails to cling to the rustic bark.

I wouldn't use plastic, metal or painted/slick wood for a vertically deep cavity. Martins would not be able to climb such a surface.

Here is a photo of one of my vertically deep natural gourds with a pair of martins nesting. I call this gourd a "woodpecker gourd" because of the vertical depth. The entrance is about 10 inches I guess from the bottom and the gourd is suspended with a sloping angle. Martins can easily crawl up the rustic surface of the natural gourd to reach the entrance just like they would do in a natural woodpecker cavity.

Image
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season

Rodger Drye
Posts: 660
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.

Re: Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Rodger Drye » Mon Oct 21, 2019 6:37 pm

Hey Steve ,

I can see were the natural Gourd like you’ve shown in your photos would probably work. Especially since you explained about how the birds can climb so well. Ditto on my that.!

I can’t seem to grasp the concept of how they can scale the walls of a Super Gourd or an Excluder Gourd. On Gourds like the Super Gourd and Excluder Gourd looks like you’d have to pack the bottom with pine straw so the birds would have a chance to get out. Are the walls of those Gourds slick.?

Another question that I was asked is how well does a Purple Martin see in the dark.? I know that a male Martin must see fairly well because they’re up at like 4:00 a.m. singing the “Dawn Song”...! What do you think.?

Regards,

Rodger
PMCA Member
Have been Hosting and Protecting Martin's for 30 years.

Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4332
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Re: Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Steve Kroenke » Tue Oct 22, 2019 8:55 am

Hey Rodger,

For my plastic gourds with "some vertical depth" like the Super Gourd and Excluder, I create a thick pre-nest of pine straw inside. This makes it easy for any martin to exit these gourds. I have inside porches and the martins can first perch on the porch before exiting. Both Super Gourds and Excluders have slick plastic walls.

Martins probably can't climb up slick plastic, metal of similar wooden surfaces. So such cavities with significant vertical depth may be more difficult for martins to exit. You could add some kind of aid that allows the martins to grasp with the nails as they climb up to the entrance.

However, if the inside diameter of a cavity is large enough, then martins and other birds may be able to use their wings to aid in "jumping up" to the entrance. The martin can spread out his wings to aid in giving some lift when flapped to reach the entrance. I have seen martins enter Super Gourds without any pre-nesting material inside and then exit the entrance. The Super Gourd is about 10 inches in diameter with a hole cut around 4 inches from the bottom.

I have only used vertically deep cavities (entrances around 6 or more inches from bottoms) with natural gourds and some single unit wooden boxes made from cedar. Both these cavity types have rustic surfaces that would allow a martin to use his sharp nails to climb up the fronts to reach the entrance. You could "scrape" wood to create ridges to provide a rough surface that a martin could grip and climb.

For now, I am using only plastic gourds rather than naturals or single unit boxes and the plastic gourds have worked just fine in attracting and hosting martins. I still would like to have one "nostalgic" rack with all natural gourds and may try to do that in the future.

Vertically deep cavities can provide protection to the martins from avian predators by keeping the martins deep inside and away from the eyes and talons of owls and hawks. Also such cavities can cradle the martin eggs/small nestlings together and minimize the chances of displacement. I have noticed that single SY male martins looking for territory have a more difficult time removing tiny martin nestlings from vertically deep cavities (SY male infanticide behavior). These males can easily carry out featherless babies from shallow entrances with holes cut near the bottoms of gourds/houses.

Regarding martins seeing at night...

I have watched martins during the dawn singing time and just after dark during roosting time. Martins seem to have some ability to see during dim light conditions. I have seen some martins that appeared to return to the colony AFTER they had left just at dark and try to enter cavities. I have seen this when I was out in my colony on "owl patrol" and trying to scare off great horned or barred owls from attacking.

There are two main retinal cells in the eyes: cones which relate to daytime vision and seeing color and rods which are sensitive light gathering cells and relate to nighttime vision. Martins probably have more cones than rods since martins are mainly active during the day. Owls have a super abundance of rods which aid in seeing in the darkness. I don't know if any scientist has studied the cone/rod proportions in the eyes of martins.

I do know that many martins, particularly the ASY males leave their nests during the early morning darkness, climb high in the sky and dawn sing. Possibly high up in sky, the martins can keep together using their vocalizations and seeing each other using any moon or starlight.

Martins do have many interesting behaviors and there are still mysteries that need to be solved!

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season

Rodger Drye
Posts: 660
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.

Re: Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Rodger Drye » Tue Oct 22, 2019 4:09 pm

Hey! I’m Rodger’s daughter and I’m trying to help him post some of his photos on this forum and we have tried everything and can’t figure out what we are doing wrong. We are on an iPad so could you explain how to do it? I went to “new post” and put in a new topic then he typed what he wanted to say but it will not let me add the photo. If you could help we would greatly appreciate it.
PMCA Member
Have been Hosting and Protecting Martin's for 30 years.

Rodger Drye
Posts: 660
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.

Re: Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Rodger Drye » Tue Oct 22, 2019 7:14 pm

Hey Steve,

My daughter Lisa is trying to help me post some photos. We’re having trouble trying to get on the profile page.? I wanted to show you some photos of my new Nitro D gourd rack and my Winch/Pole systems.

I have some Excluder and deep Natural Gourds, but have never used them thinking the birds would get trapped inside.I plan on calling the PMCA tomorrow and ask them for some help....

Rodger

Steve Kroenke
Posts: 4332
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:49 pm
Location: Louisiana/Logansport

Re: Gourd Racks And Houses Lowered And It’s Cleaning Time

Postby Steve Kroenke » Wed Oct 23, 2019 6:53 am

Rodger,

I use the Photobucket approach to post photos on the Forum. That usually works but recently my links from Photobucket to the Forum seem to only post smaller size photos. I don't know how to "fix" that!

Here is a link to a recent Forum post about this issue. The Forum Administrator responded and shared information of how to post photos on the
Forum. The size of the photo is important in posting on the Forum.

https://www.purplemartin.org/forum/view ... es#p286592

There shouldn't be any issue with using the PMCA Excluder Gourds because of the vertical depth. Just add some pine straw to the gourd interior up to the marking on the outside of the gourd. The pine straw would be just under the inside porch. I pack my pine straw down to create a good foundation and create a nest bowl. I have never had any martins trapped in the interior of my Excluder Gourds because of the vertical depth. Often the martins themselves will "push" the pine straw down more as they "work" on the pre-nest. Many of the nests in my Excluder gourds are lower down in the inside as the season progresses and the martins have no difficulty exiting. The vertical depth of the Excluder Gourd is one of its best features in my opinion.

I hope you will be able to post a picture of your gourd rack! I am sure many folks on the Forum would enjoy seeing it!

Steve
PMCA Member
300+ pairs of martins each season


Return to “Purple Martin Forum”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot], Jim Rockford, MSN [Bot], T-Bird, Whippy and 24 guests