Spring Losses !!

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Hanover Bill
Posts: 608
Joined: Thu May 14, 2009 3:10 pm
Location: Pennsylvania/Hanover Township
Martin Colony History: 2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72

Just making my own amateur observation based on what I see at my site it appears that the ASY males took the biggest hit from the cold, wet, windy early spring in my area. I lost 3 ASY males that I know of but I fear the total is probably quite a bit higher than that. I base this on the fact that aside from the 3 I know of, I observed several on the ground barely able to fly. When approached they took off for the woods, but I fear a lot of these may have been too weak to make it back to the site. My observation is also based on the fact that I have far more SY males around than usual, apparently taking up the spots left vacant by the lost ASY males.

I may be totally off base with this theory, It's just my opinion from what I see around here. Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

Thanks;
Hanover Bill.
2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72
ToyinPA
Posts: 2126
Joined: Mon Apr 10, 2006 6:07 pm
Location: PA/Avis
Martin Colony History: The 1972 St. Agnes flood wiped out all the Martins in my area. One day, in 1997-98, 5 or 6 Martins landed on the power wires crossing my back yard. I had no house for them. They kept coming back day after day. We got a martin house a few weeks later & they have been coming back every year since. I average 12-15 pair per year.

Hi Bill:

This spring was very hard on martins, especially in the north. Many arrived to wet weather then the cold hit. They had no time to recover from the long migration. I'd also guess that the ASY males took the biggest hit, as they arrive first. Many posts on the FB page showed mostly ASY males that died, so yes your observation is right.

In past years I've had many arrive looking like they'd been thru a war, thin, weak, feathers in bad shape, etc. If they can't find food along the way or they go thru a lot of bad weather during migration they suffer badly. No matter the weather, when they first arrive, I offer supplemental food for them, to help them get fed up so they can rest a bit & recover. The heavy use of pesticides has greatly reduced the amount of insects, so they often struggle to find enough food.

I had 5 ASY males arrive. 2 pushed on north the next day. I have 3 ASY males. One ASY female arrived & then an SY female. That SY female didn't stay, but moved on. Another SY female arrived. She is still here. That's all I have so far. Unless I get some SY males my season will be pretty bleak. I've gone from 17 pair down to 7 pair down to the few I have this year. The bad weather the past couple years & jerk neighbor's massive tall trees have all but decimated my colony.

Toy in PA
PMCA Member
Hanover Bill
Posts: 608
Joined: Thu May 14, 2009 3:10 pm
Location: Pennsylvania/Hanover Township
Martin Colony History: 2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72

Hi Toy;

I know you have had a rough go of it the last few years with the weather. This is my first real experience with "killing" spring weather. Previous years losses have been one or two, but I fear this year I have taken a more substantial hit. Hopefully the SY birds will take up the slack, I seem to have a lot of them.

Everything seems to be way behind here. A nest check today revealed only 1 egg. I thought there would be more than that considering how long the Martins have been here, but I guess the weather has really slowed the process.

I hope there are more Martins headed your way. They can't find a better landlord.

Hanover Bill.
2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72
mwren
Posts: 108
Joined: Tue Mar 17, 2015 2:43 pm
Location: OH/Athens
Martin Colony History: I have had my martin colony on the dam of one of my ponds for nine years. The colony has grown each year, but I am now concentrating on helping friends and acquaintances who have shown interests in martins. My colony consists of three T-14's with 8 Troyer gourds attatched to each T-14, a Troyer gourd rack with 12 gourds, and another gourd rack with 18 Troyer gourds for a total of 96 nest cavities. I am having serious predation issues with hawks and owls and am experimenting with various hawk guards and "screens". Established successful supplemental feeding last season during late march and had a blast flipping mostly meal worms and some crickets. Faculty from Ohio University are using my colony as a research site to study parasites that target cavity nesting birds. In exchange for access to my bird trail nest boxes and martin housing, they are banding all birds involved in their study.

Bill,

I am with you on the theory that most of the birds lost in the Ohio Valley and heading northeast into Pa. were probably ASY male birds. This is the first spring that I had to deal with considerable death of adult birds due to Hypothermia/Starvation. I found 7 birds dead in nest cavities. I did everything I could to stay ahead of the weather and lack of food by supplemental feeding mostly with meal worms , some crickets, some scrambled eggs.... my birds have never learned to like flipped eggs. They willgrab some pieces, but often times they spit it out. I also have never been able to get my birds to eat from the tray feeder, so "flipping" is up to me to provide food for birds that were in dire straits. One of the problems with depending on flipping is that the aggressive, hungriest birds dominate the feeding crowding the airspace around the colony. It seems that I can always tell which birds are "mine" when they return each year because all I need to do is to pull out my large plastic spoon and I draw a crowd of experienced birds!! Eventually, the "newbies" to my colony eventually figure things out, and will begin to chase down the meal worms. I am allmost positive that the birds that I lost this spring were part of the colony that were new to my site and were most likely not familiar with supplemental feeding.
On a brighter note, I was able to save a male ASY bird that I found on the ground under one of the towers. It took 13 days of force feeding, 3 to 4 times per day, 30 meal worms per meal. For a couple of the days, we added crickets to the menu. As a part of the feeding process, we soaked the worms and crickets in gatorade to help with hydration. The bird weighed in at 33 grams when we first found him nearly dead, and at day 14 he was up to 48 grams. We used weight to help judge if the bird had improved to a weight close to average for migrating martins. When he got to that weight, we were fairly confident that he had a chance to re-join the colony successfully. It was a great day when he left my hands last Saturday and flew off like a champ! He joined the birds that were feeding high above the colony, and he looked great doing it! We have had fun keeping track of him now by checking his banded leg via spotting scope when he is on his porch.
The spring of 2020 will be hard to forget, for lots of reasons!
Good luck to all landlords who have had to deal with the heartache of finding dead birds in their nests. Hopefully you will have enough birds pull through the terrible weather we had to keep your colony going! Hang in there, and teach your birds about "Flipping Meal Worms" !!

"Bird"
Mike "Bird" Wren
Hanover Bill
Posts: 608
Joined: Thu May 14, 2009 3:10 pm
Location: Pennsylvania/Hanover Township
Martin Colony History: 2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72

Mike;

Great job saving that ASY bird. That takes real dedication. This certainly has been a difficult spring. Like you this is my first experience dealing with "killing" spring weather at my site. Surprisingly sites to the north seem to have weathered it better than down around my area. The only good thing to come out of this spring is that I was finally successful with supplemental feeding. I had tried for years with no success until this year.

Hope the rest of the season is a good one for you.

Hanover Bill.
2009 & 10 - 0
2011 & 12 - Visitors
2013 - 2 pr. fledged 9
2014 - 3 pr. fledged 13
2015 - 7 pr. fledged 27
2016 - 15 pr. fledged 72
mwren
Posts: 108
Joined: Tue Mar 17, 2015 2:43 pm
Location: OH/Athens
Martin Colony History: I have had my martin colony on the dam of one of my ponds for nine years. The colony has grown each year, but I am now concentrating on helping friends and acquaintances who have shown interests in martins. My colony consists of three T-14's with 8 Troyer gourds attatched to each T-14, a Troyer gourd rack with 12 gourds, and another gourd rack with 18 Troyer gourds for a total of 96 nest cavities. I am having serious predation issues with hawks and owls and am experimenting with various hawk guards and "screens". Established successful supplemental feeding last season during late march and had a blast flipping mostly meal worms and some crickets. Faculty from Ohio University are using my colony as a research site to study parasites that target cavity nesting birds. In exchange for access to my bird trail nest boxes and martin housing, they are banding all birds involved in their study.

Bill,
That is great that you finally had success with supplemental feeding. It took me awhile to "teach" my birds to understand "flipping" also. I have had a great time over the years helping the birds make it through difficult times in the spring. I have had so much fun flipping, that I am probably doing it more than I should because it is so much fun to interact with these cool birds!!
Good luck the rest of the season!

"Bird"
Mike "Bird" Wren
John Balga
Posts: 198
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 7:13 pm
Location: Essex, Essex County, Ontario
Martin Colony History: 2012-69 pairs
2015- 3 pair at new home colony
2016-6 pair at home colony-1 ASY FEMALE banded from Andy Troyer colony
2017-17 pair at home colony
2018-38 pair at home colony
2019-47 pair at home colony

Hi Bill,
Spring was a very difficult time for the martins here at my colony in Essex, Ontario. I was very fortunate to not lose any Martins or Tree Swallows but others reported losing between 5 and 50 Martins and several Tree Swallows. Stewards who fed their martins complained that some martins in the colony refused to eat crickets or scrambled eggs while others did. Many could not get any of the martins to feed on any supplemental protein. Calls came in from across the province when the cold weather set in when the Martins began to weaken and perish to find a solution to this unfortunate situation. Fortunately, the Martins fed here on over twenty dozen eggs-every two hours on some days on a feeding tray , flung in the air or tossed on the sidewalk. Often the martins would wait in an adjacent tree by the dozens to get the first egg pieces. Over twenty Tree Swallows also learned to feed and often competed with the martins for the scrambled eggs. Their antics were amusing as the martins chased the Tree Swallows until they dropped their piece of egg. A pair of Bluebirds also chose to mimic the feeding behaviour and were rewarded with several tasty morsels. The 3 inches of snow on May 3, 2020 was alarming, an eye-opener and a wake up call to check housing for any weakened or dead martins. Gourds and housing entrances needed to be cleared. Hopefully, with over 100 Purple Martins and Tree Swallows now busily laying eggs, I hope that better weather conditions will prevail for the rest of the season.
I encourage Martin Stewards to feed their Martins or attempt to on rainy and inclement days. You will certainly be rewarded with an abundance of Martins and with the feeling that you did your part to save the Martins for the Future.

John Balga
https://ontariopurplemartins.ca
Keep the martins flying in Ontario!
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