Category: Bird Watching

Bird Dilemma…

Every year, about this time, my husband diligently cleans off and puts up his Martin House.

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He has a love affair with these birds, and it started back when his grandparents had their Martin house.

Over our 25 years of marriage, occasionally, ThrillCam would recall his fond memories of his grandparents’ Martin house.

Somehow I actually remembered this, and a few years back, the boys and I gave him his very own Martin house.

He’s been dedicated to those little migratory birds ever since.

Every year, it seems we both equally get caught up in waiting for and watching, protecting and being entertained by the daredevil Purple Martins.

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Needless to say, this year is no different.

ThrillCam cleaned and even re-positioned the Martin house, in anticipation for the arrival of the birds. His theory was, if we move the Martin house a little closer to our house, maybe the Sparrows won’t try to move in and take over.

So far, the Sparrows have stayed away.

But, not because he moved the house.

In fact, we have a way bigger dilemma than those house-squater-Sparrows.

You see, the very day the martin house went up, in moved two beautiful Bluebirds!

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You can see the pretty female, above.

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In this picture, you can see the male, below the female.

(My photograph does nothing to show you his brilliant electric blue color.)

As you can image, we have fallen in love with these two and we want them to stay!

What’s funny is, the Bluebirds have protected the house from the Sparrows, who always give the Purple Martins a hard time about nesting in there.

By allowing the Bluebirds to stay, the Sparrows are kept out!

That’s a good thing!

Getting to watch the Bluebirds up close and personal is also a treat for us.

But…we also enjoy watching the Martins, when they arrive each year. Besides, they depend on humans for their homes…Bluebirds do not.

But, by golly, those Bluebirds sure are pretty! And I don’t think I’ve ever been close enough to truly observe Bluebirds for any extended period of time.

Can see our problem, y’all?

Will it be Bluebirds?

Will it be Purple Martins?

Or, will the Sparrows push their way in and mess everything up?

Oh, the drama!!

Stay tuned, y’all.

E.

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Purple Martins Galore!

So I told you our Purple Martins had babies. It was a very exciting time for ThrillCam and his little adopted family.

Then, once the babies grew big enough to fly the coop, the Martin house became eerily quiet.

It was empty.

No birds for about three to four days.

I even mentioned to ThrillCam that maybe he should go ahead and take down the house, because the Squatter Sparrow was starting to take over the place and call it home.

But, then, suddenly, from out of nowhere, the Purple Martins began re-appearing!

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And, not just one or two…

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Today, we were counting up to ten or twelve Purple Martins flying around our backyard.

It was as if the original family left and told all their friends how great the landlords were and that they, too, should check out the apartment complex!

If you build it, they will come, apparently.

(That stinking Sparrow was such a pest! It did not like the Martins returning; he had assumed the place was his. He/she kept flying around, madly chirping…or chirping madly. Not sure which. Either way, the bird was mad and the bird was chirping.)

This experience has really captured our attention over the last couple of months. We waited for what seemed like forever for them to choose our house. Then, once they decided to stay, we were nervous they weren’t going to like it and leave. All the while, the Sparrows kept building nests on the opposite side of the Martins and about every 2-3 days, ThrillCam would lower the house and clean out the Sparrow nests…. Of course, once they had babies, we knew they were fully calling it home. It’s truly been fascinating to watch the whole process.

And, now, we have even more who are congregating on and in the house! In fact, I sat watching them for a good 30 minutes, counting all the extra birds flying around.

Eventually, it dawned on my to video our fine feathered friends!

(The video’s a little shaky, as I had not grabbed my monopod or tripod.)

Listen to how noisy they are–very excited little things!

Oh! And listen for the clicking noise…

(Just click on the link below to watch my video.)

http://video214.com/play/QBFPusOvAFBDNVUi6CvvFQ/s/dark

The Sparrow stayed on the house, if you noticed, but eventually, the Martins shooed him off.

We are really curious why the Purple Martins left for a few days and then returned. ThrillCam has read other people’s experiences and they believe the Martins are beginning to group up for the impending migration back to South America.

I guess we’ll find out in the next couple of days as to whether they intend to stay and be “late nesters” or if they are just resting and preparing for the long trip home.

When they do finally leave, we’re going to miss them; they’ve added quite an odd bit of excitement in our new country experiences!

E.

We Have Babies!!

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I’ve tried three mornings, in a row, to get pictures of our Purple Martins.

All three mornings, I have failed.

Well, not completely failed, but failed to get the shots I wanted.

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You see, our Martins have had babies!! And, I have yet to get any pictures.

Bird photography is not as easy as you’d think.

Unless they’re Ostriches, they’re pretty small targets. And, fast. I’m thinking that’s another story for another post.

Anyway, ThrillCam took pity on this fool and graciously offered to take down the house so I could hopefully get a picture.

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This is a big deal, because ThrillCam is quite protective of his little bird family.

He opened up the side where the Squatter Sparrows CONTINUE to invade and began cleaning it out, so our growing Martin family could spread out, if needed.

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ThrillCam informed me the thicker straw is Martin nest material, whereas, the thin grasses are Sparrow nests. Turkeys.

Well, not turkeys, because turkeys do not squat in Purple Martin Houses. Sparrows are not a member of the turkey family. Turkeys are big. Sparrows are not. Turkeys taste good. Sparrows do not.

Just wanted to clarify.

I are smart.

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In this little hole, there are, we think, three babies! I still was unable to get a picture of the babies. They stayed VERY still, not making a peep.

ThillCam did not want to disturb the babies by opening the side where they were nesting–he’s a good Purple Martin Daddy. Protective.

I wish you could have seen and heard the adult Martins while we snooped around their babies. Suddenly, there were 5 adults flying around us, chirping up a storm, obviously perturbed we were messing with their offspring. They are protective, too.

Finally, once we moved away, the mamas and daddy (daddies?) returned to check that all was okay on the home front.

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Four of the five settled back onto the house.

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Now, that they have established a family, hopefully, the Martins will return yearly.

It’s really been a fun experience to watch and be a part of, I must say.

Have a great day, y’all!

E.

P.S. Scroll back up to the very top picture; I just noticed–I think there’s a baby sticking his head out of that bottom hole!

Solution.

Mornings and evenings usually begin with ThrillCam and me sitting out on our back patio: me drinking my coffee, him staring at his Purple Martins, us listening to the water trickle down the pool’s waterfall.

It’s a beautiful beginning and ending to our days.

During these times, we are finding ourselves more and more intrigued by all the different birds that fly around our house. We have a ton of beautiful red Cardinals, some Blue Jays, Mockingbirds, Finches, Sparrows, Doves, Hummingbirds and even Road Runners!

Bird watching, to be honest, has never been my thing. I mean, I like them and all…

I love Mockingbirds (the state bird of Texas!), especially, for their constantly changing chirps and songs.

I love Road Runners, thanks to Warner Bros. cartoons. (“Beep. Beep. Zip-tang!”) (Please tell me you get that reference. Please.)

Oh! And, I love doves, because they are so tasty.

(I’m keeeding!)

(Sort of. Okay. Not really. They are pretty, lovely birds to look at, but they are also pretty and lovely to eat.)

In the past, for me to sit and watch, and really notice birds?…not so much.

Thankfully, all that has changed.

Last week, we found our peaceful mornings disrupted by some bold and pesky little birds.

A set of Barn Swallows (or Chimney Sweeps, as I grew up calling them) were attempting to build nests under my office porch.

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They’re pretty little birds, aren’t they?

They are part of the Swallow family (same family as the Purple Martins) and they do a good job of eating bugs.

So, why aren’t we helping them out, like we’ve helped the Purple Martins?

The problem is, Chimney Sweeps build mud nests DIRECTLY onto the side of the house. Not only that, but they are messy little critters.

I felt bad shooing them away, because they are so darn cute and beneficial, but I knew I did not want them living ON my house.

We noticed one spot, in particular, where they were returning to time after time. In fact, we could be standing there, directly under the porch where they were trying to nest, and those birds would literally dive-bomb us!

We had to figure out a way to thwart their efforts.

We tried attaching foil to the little ledge, but the foil blew off.

We tried knocking off the mud and grass the birds brought in, but they just returned to rebuild.

We were becoming nearly as obsessive about these little birds as our Purple Martins, but not in a warm, fuzzy way.

Finally, ThrillCam did this:

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Pretty smart, huh?

The CDs move in the wind and reflect light and scare the little squatters away! (And, so far, no one has noticed the CDs up there since they are sort of hidden from view.)

I thought it was brilliant!

E.

Swallow versus Sparrow: The Throwdown

In this corner, we have the small and sprite, but ever so persistent, the lowly and common Houssssse Sparrrrrrow!!

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ANNDDDDD, over in this corner, we have the current, reigning, and defending Champions…

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…Fighting, out of South America, the Purrrppplllleee Marrrtttiinnnsssss!

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Here’s the deal. If a mooch, like a House Sparrow or a Starling moves into your Martin house before a Purple Martin does, often, the Martin will seek other housing.

So, needless to say, we have been keeping guard over the Martin house, lo, these last couple of months, striving to prevent a squatter from moving in and taking over.

It hasn’t been easy, let me tell you.

ThrillCam has to take down and clean out the nests of a Sparrows, which have yet to deter them in the least.

She/He/It returns, over and over.

Every time the Martins fly off in search of bugs or nesting materials, Sparrows would fly in and begin building a nest.

Home Wrecker.

Look at that Sparrow’s boldness! She’s walking right in, like she owns the place, while the owner is in the backyard!

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Stinkin’ Squatter Sparrow.

Oh, but don’t you worry about those Purple Martins! They know the gig. They see what that silly Sparrow is up to.

Busted!!

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PURPLE MARTIN DON’T CARE!!!

OH SNAP!

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That’ll teach you, Sparrow!

Go Purple Martins! Go!

E.

Update:

We’ve noticed a new, third Martin that looks like another female. It might be a young, immature male, but we are thinking it’s actually a female.

Okay. We don’t know what it is.

BUT, it’s exciting to see 3 Martins now! We hope more will come to roost.

We are still having trouble keeping the Sparrows out of the Martin house. In fact, I walked outside, yesterday, to see a female Martin and a Sparrow participating in what I would call a bird’s version of WWE!  It was Wrestlemania at its best!  I really do believe the Martin was injured, slightly, but she was NOT going to let that Sparrow stay in her house!
Of course, ThrillCam and I are doing what we can to help the Martins. But, goodness gracious! Those Sparrows are persistent little buggers!!
I’ll keep you posted as the sage unfolds.

Purple Martin Obsession

Two Christmases ago, ThrillCam received a Martin house.

You see, his grandparents had a Martin house when he was growing, and he recalls it quite fondly.

So, our youngest punk gave him the Martin “apartment” house, below.

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He put up the house last Spring, but, sadly, no Purple Martins took to the new home.

This is a Purple Martin, by the way:

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(That is a female, I’m pretty sure. Females have a light chest and are more brown in color–young male Martins also have a lighter chest, but I’m pretty sure this is our female. Males are a deep, deep purple, almost black, all over. I’ll have better pictures in a following post.)

Purple Martins are known for their amazing in-air acrobats and bug-catching skills.

After we moved, and before ThrillCam put up the Martin house this Spring, he did a little more research. The internet is chock full of good information on how to attract and prepare your birdhouse for Purple Martins.

And, because of my husband’s new-found obsession, I am now very knowledgable in the ways of the Purple Martin. I patiently sit at the feet of my love and listen as he explains the habits and needs of these migrating birds.

For example, did you know Purple Martins migrate to the Amazon each winter?

*Once they have laid claim to a house, Purple Martins return to the same house every year.

*Purple Martins send out scout birds (young males) to find a new place, if the family of Martins has outgrown their home. (We noticed scout birds back in February.) I’m assuming they kick out their oldest male punks to go out in search of a new home, new career, etc.

You know, I can relate to the Purple Martin mamas…we did the same with our oldest punk (insert sad, crying emoticon); we sent him off to college. Waaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

Oh.

Sorry.

That’s a different story…has nothing whatsoever to do with Purple Martins.

*Once Purple Martins nest in a house, they will fight off anything that tries to move in. (More on that later.) But, if a House Sparrow, for example, builds a nest in the house before Purple Martins move in, the Purple Martins will seek other housing. (My next post will show you this problem.)

*Purple Martins soar quite high and feed while flying. Rarely do they come down to the ground to capture a bug.

*Did you know that the eastern Purple Martin is dependent upon people to provide their artificial homes?

These are just some of the little, fascinating facts ThrillCam has passed along to me as we patiently awaited their arrival.

For nearly a month, the man would stand at his office window, looking through his binoculars, watching, hoping a Martin family would move in.

Then, over the Easter weekend, sure enough, a set of Martins began circling the house and actually landing on it. In fact, our Martin house initially had a Martin decoy on the top. That weekend, we witnessed the female Martin dive-bombing the decoy, while the male would land on the house. I told ThrillCam he needed to remove that decoy; that mama bird was not going to raise her babies with that intruder leering over them!

ThrillCam took off the decoy on Easter Sunday afternoon. Sure enough, they both began landing on the house and going in and out of the tiny holes. I’m pretty sure the female started hanging pictures on the wall that very evening.

ThrillCam has been beside himself with excitement at having a new family move in! He has been watching, expectantly, for about 2 months now.

I wish I could convey to you how invested my husband is in these little bug-eating birds.

It’s almost as much fun watching HIM watch them, as it is to watch the birds!

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E.

Want to find out more about Purple Martins? Check out this link to the Purple Martin Conservation Association.