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Old 05-04-2012, 01:55 PM   #1
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Default Bluebird Trail 2012 - A new dilemma

Every year brings something new.

I have only lost two tree swallows to HOSP attacks, so far.

The bluebirds put two eggs down and they never hatched. Five more went down and all hatched a couple of days ago. I disposed of the old eggs. The first tree swallow egg was deposited on Wednesday morning.

I have removed 14 HOSP from the site this year and they now think that it is safer to build in the martin houses, than in bluebird boxes. This could be another fatal error.

My new dilemma came on my Sunday check. Blood and feathers everywhere on the martin houses and below. The aluminum houses had doors almost removed, porches bent . . . One or more great horned owls (species is a guess) were using the martin colony to feed their young. I expedited four "Nite Guard" units and installed them Wednesday evening. These will either work and I will give a glowing testimony here, or I will have one less hobby to take up my time.
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Old 05-04-2012, 02:43 PM   #2
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It'll be interesting to see how this goes for you. It's been years since I put up martin houses and they're still not used by purple martins... that happens.... I know and these HOSP hotels are great for anyone with a BB gun so I guess they're worth religiously putting up every year afterall. The nite guards have mixed reviews. I've got 1 nite guard.... no point in attaching it to the frame of the martin house though considering we have no PMs. A great horned owl is a big bird. There have been reports of them grabbing onto the guards and flapping their wings shaking things up a bit then grabbing a snack as the residents fly out.
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Old 05-04-2012, 03:22 PM   #3
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It'll be interesting to see how this goes for you. It's been years since I put up martin houses and they're still not used by purple martins... that happens.... I know and these HOSP hotels are great for anyone with a BB gun so I guess they're worth religiously putting up every year afterall. The nite guards have mixed reviews. I've got 1 nite guard.... no point in attaching it to the frame of the martin house though considering we have no PMs. A great horned owl is a big bird. There have been reports of them grabbing onto the guards and flapping their wings shaking things up a bit then grabbing a snack as the residents fly out.
That is exactly what they do and since I have all adult birds (no young), they flush when the owl beats its wings on the housing. That is why I chose the Nite Guard product over building other protection. I attached four of them to a 18" 2"X2" and put it on the house in the middle of the colony. It will work, or it won't.

I know of two people who put up martin housing this spring and have birds already. They are both in prime locations, with nearby colonies. One of them has never tried to identify a martin, tree swallow, or HOSP. He has A LOT of questions - daily!
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Old 05-29-2012, 06:51 PM   #4
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I only have a few more nest checks to do this year. I have a few purple martin nests with eggs. I have one new bluebird nest with eggs and a few tree swallow nests with eggs. Many of the females will not be incubating what is left. They are owl food. One martin house is destroyed. The bluebird boxes are all scarred by talons. This may be the end of the purple martin colony. Will see if any birds return next year. If not, Livingston County can go on the list of counties in Michigan with no purple martins and I will have more free time.

No, there isn't anything more that can be done.
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Old 05-29-2012, 09:38 PM   #5
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I am so sorry.

Please keep us posted.
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Old 05-30-2012, 08:06 AM   #6
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I only have a few more nest checks to do this year. I have a few purple martin nests with eggs. I have one new bluebird nest with eggs and a few tree swallow nests with eggs. Many of the females will not be incubating what is left. They are owl food. One martin house is destroyed. The bluebird boxes are all scarred by talons. This may be the end of the purple martin colony. Will see if any birds return next year. If not, Livingston County can go on the list of counties in Michigan with no purple martins and I will have more free time.

No, there isn't anything more that can be done.

I've read this thread with particular interest. The HOSPS I have contended with myself, but the fact that a native predator (I once read that the Great Horned Owl was the most efficient predator in the animal kingdom, with most of its victims never even being aware that they were even attacked when they met their end because of the owl's silent flight).


But in this case the martins were terrified before their death, and a, would be, martin caertaker could only watch and wonder how purple martins have managed to successfully evolve and why they, even with assistance, seem to be dimininshing into the danger of oblivion right before our eyes.

My money is on that there will be survivors this year that will return next year and replenish the colony. Keep the faith, Mark!
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Old 06-09-2012, 08:27 PM   #7
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I just did a check. I have no hope that any bluebirds will nest again this year. I do not expect any of the few tree swallow nests to make it. I had eight young martins in two nests, but don't believe that they will be there next week. There are three martin nests in gourds that the owl(s) have not hit, yet. It is almost total devastation. Just when you thought that you had seen it all . . .

Now I get to "owl proof" everything, just in case anything comes back. If no martins reproduce this year, I do not expect any returns. It's nature.
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Old 06-09-2012, 08:37 PM   #8
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I just did a check. I have no hope that any bluebirds will nest again this year. I do not expect any of the few tree swallow nests to make it. I had eight young martins in two nests, but don't believe that they will be there next week. There are three martin nests in gourds that the owl(s) have not hit, yet. It is almost total devastation. Just when you thought that you had seen it all . . .

Now I get to "owl proof" everything, just in case anything comes back. If no martins reproduce this year, I do not expect any returns. It's nature.
But that is surely a bleak perspective, Mark. Take off those dark glasses and trust in the resilience of these birds. A scout will pass though next Spring and see a paradise, uninhabited. Just what he will be looking for!!!
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Old 06-10-2012, 07:37 AM   #9
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Thanks Jack.

Any birds that may return will meet the owls next year. Because they only nest in colonies, even a few birds will be difficult to start over with. I can't find anyone who has built owl guards for bluebird houses and I will have to build custom guards for the other housing. One martin house is destroyed and has to be rebuilt. Two houses are old aluminum houses with 6"X6"X6" compartments. They have to come down. Guards could be made for them, but they are over 30 years old and it isn't worth it. I may do a bunch of work and have no birds show up next year, or the owls may beat any system that I come up with.

It will be interesting to document, but it looks like a sad ending.
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Old 06-10-2012, 08:49 AM   #10
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Thanks Jack.

Any birds that may return will meet the owls next year. Because they only nest in colonies, even a few birds will be difficult to start over with. I can't find anyone who has built owl guards for bluebird houses and I will have to build custom guards for the other housing. One martin house is destroyed and has to be rebuilt. Two houses are old aluminum houses with 6"X6"X6" compartments. They have to come down. Guards could be made for them, but they are over 30 years old and it isn't worth it. I may do a bunch of work and have no birds show up next year, or the owls may beat any system that I come up with.

It will be interesting to document, but it looks like a sad ending.
Mark, have you seen the owls in action? What else are they feeding on there that will keep them situated once the birds are gone??

I would actually welcome a few big owls here. The rabbits are out of hand and , though I have three significantly sized brush piles on my property, no foxes have chosen my yard for their home. I think the coyotes are responsible for that, and perhaps I have given protection from the coyotes with my brush piles for the rabbits. I keep thinking that where there is food, there will come predators, but the rabbits keep proliferating.
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2012, bird, bird house, bird nests, birds, bluebird, dilemma, horned owl, hosp, martin, martin housw, martins, nite guard, owl, predator, prey, purple martin, trail, tree swallow

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