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Old 06-12-2011, 09:48 PM   #11
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There are two kinds of knowledge, one far surpassing the other. One is a second hand, theoretical knowledge which possesses an uncertainty until one finally experiences it himself. The other type of knowledge is experiential, which is the type you have when it comes to bluebird trails, bird house construction, timing of activities, dealing with invasive fauna, and cleaning for the following year. I envy you that first-hand knowledge and wish I was your neighbor who could then learn from you all you've done through the years.

Well put, jack.

...I'd love to have you as a neighbor too (but here--I'm not moving to Michigan!)... that way I'd be able to learn from your experience, have a fellow wildlife gardener who understands my interests in natives, *and* have a very good chance of attracting some of your martin's progeny to *my* yard!
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Old 06-12-2011, 10:13 PM   #12
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It was a bonus to witness my first nesting of house finches. They get a head start on bluebirds, which are usually my first to have eggs. Cleaning the finch nest out was not a pleasure. Finches don't remove fecal sacs. Since they have multiple broods, I assume that the martins prevented them from returning to nest after the martins arrived and began to claim compartments. It's great when everybody gets along..
I've never had house finches nest...I've only seen them at feeders in the winter--and after moving east, I've not seen any of them--but I did have a purple finch show up this year.

I had to go back and edit my post--when I read "house finch" I was thinking "house sparrow"...until I saw you say it was a "bonus" to see them, then I caught myself.

...Too bad they don't remove fecal sacs...I know the bluebirds do. ~whew~


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I have been dive bombed by so many tree swallows that it doesn't usually get my attention. I'm not so sure how serious they are about it anymore. They fly around me every spring, before nesting starts. There is no reason for them to do that, other than curiosity. They trust me enough to allow me within a few feet of them. I was dive bombed by both adult bluebirds, at my home this year. Bluebirds usually sit and watch. These got very aggressive toward the fledge date. Martins have never dive bombed me until last year. One female started close runs past me and let out a distinct call every time. She did this every time that I went out and would sometimes keep it up the whole time that I was there. She is back this year. It's nice to see her, but it would be nice if she would stop acting like a tree swallow, too. It does take a while to get used to, but when you do, it just makes you smile a little when you feel the breeze. I have never had a bird actually come into contact with me, except one angry bluejay that didn't want me to help her kid. She or he drew blood.
I had read about tree swallows dive bombing someone who gets too close...but that they never make contact. I'm glad I did read it, because, last year I experienced it...and it barely fazed me.

This year, is the first year the bluebirds did the same. The two previous years, they never bothered me.

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There once was a fellow who owned an aluminum product company. When plastic came along he almost went out of business. He decided to manufacture aluminum purple martin housing and claimed that martins can eat 2,000 mosquitoes a day. They can, but they don't. They would really rather have a big dragonfly. Martins feed during the day when mosquitoes are laying low. That guy made a lot of money on an honest claim, but created a huge myth. Purple martin young sometimes die when a large dragonfly that is still alive chokes them on the way down. I am amazed at the size of the meals that come in.

I'm glad that you liked the shots. I just looked at my notes and young martins are due a lot sooner than I thought. I should have a nice mix of newly hatched to two week old birds in a couple of weeks. They fledge at about four weeks old. I'll get some photos and a good guess at my numbers in a couple of weeks.

You are a wealth of information.
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Old 06-13-2011, 06:39 AM   #13
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Very informative. Thank you for starting this thread.

Cool to know that the martins build the dams to keep them out.

How small can the hole be to allow the martins in but keep out the starlings?
Entry holes have improved over the years. There are dozens of types, but just a few are popular. The dimensions on these must be precise in order to allow martins in and prevent starling entrance. Since the information is consolidated, I'll refer you to my friends at the PMCA. They have a wealth of information about martins. Pennsylvania is a great state for them. You need wide open spaces, a house and some help when you run into something new. We can cover the help part. You have to do the rest. \

Here is a great link for purple martins:
Purple Martin Conservation Association
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Old 06-13-2011, 09:49 AM   #14
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Thanks for the link and info, fishlkmich.

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Pennsylvania is a great state for them. You need wide open spaces, a house and some help when you run into something new. We can cover the help part. You have to do the rest.
Hmm... I never thought I'd try for them...now you have me wondering.

We have 2 acres, but about half of it is hedgerow or the beginnings of woodland (which I plan to enhance). I'd guess that the open area is probably about 100' X 300' ...maybe even larger if you include the area around the house that is dotted by trees. However, as everything fills in, I'd say it might be a bit under the 100' X 300' area.

So far, I have 3 nest boxes up and usually have bluebirds and tree swallows. Would that indictate that it is an appropriate setting for the purple martins too?
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Old 06-13-2011, 03:58 PM   #15
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Purple martins need an open area. They must have some type of easy escape route. If nearby trees will be higher than the typical 14' martin house, I wouldn't try. If they were easy to get, I'd say go for it, but they aren't. Starting a new colony is difficult, even under great circumstances. You would certainly want to find another colony nearby before trying.
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Old 06-13-2011, 05:15 PM   #16
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Purple martins need an open area. They must have some type of easy escape route. If nearby trees will be higher than the typical 14' martin house, I wouldn't try. If they were easy to get, I'd say go for it, but they aren't. Starting a new colony is difficult, even under great circumstances. You would certainly want to find another colony nearby before trying.

It sounds like my trees are already too tall.

I know they are rare and hard to attract. I think I'll take your advice and not try. I'm happy with the bluebirds and tree swallows.

I *really* want to attract barn swallows...but they too seem to need a nearby colony and one that is ready to expand.
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Old 06-13-2011, 05:44 PM   #17
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It took us 6 years to draw the martins into the home we had set up.
I had read about putting vanilla on a cotton ball and dropping it into the nest box before raising it.
Sounds really idiotic but THAT'S what finally drew them in believe it or not, it worked!
We ALSO added two crossed sticks to the top of the unit for landing spots. They REALLY liked those!

This year there were so many birds sitting inside and out (the youngsters now grown?) we set up another unit...Within a weeks time it too was full. Soooooo Up went yet another unit...They found THAT one within a few hours.
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Old 06-13-2011, 05:49 PM   #18
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It took us 6 years to draw the martins into the home we had set up.
I had read about putting vanilla on a cotton ball and dropping it into the nest box before raising it.
Sounds really idiotic but THAT'S what finally drew them in believe it or not, it worked!
We ALSO added two crossed sticks to the top of the unit for landing spots. They REALLY liked those!

This year there were so many birds sitting inside and out (the youngsters now grown?) we set up another unit...Within a weeks time it too was full. Soooooo Up went yet another unit...They found THAT one within a few hours.
Wow! You sound like you are having quite the success with purple martins.

How much open space is there where you have the martin houses set up?
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Old 06-13-2011, 05:50 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by havalotta View Post
It took us 6 years to draw the martins into the home we had set up.
I had read about putting vanilla on a cotton ball and dropping it into the nest box before raising it.
Sounds really idiotic but THAT'S what finally drew them in believe it or not, it worked!
We ALSO added two crossed sticks to the top of the unit for landing spots. They REALLY liked those!

This year there were so many birds sitting inside and out (the youngsters now grown?) we set up another unit...Within a weeks time it too was full. Soooooo Up went yet another unit...They found THAT one within a few hours.
Any pictures????
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Old 06-14-2011, 01:46 PM   #20
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How much open space is there where you have the martin houses set up?
I'm along the bay so one side of the yard is almost completely clear of trees.

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Any pictures????
I'll go round up a few for you.
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