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Old 06-11-2011, 08:58 PM   #1
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hummer The Bluebird Trail 2011 - Rated PG!

Well, I had a request for some photos and more information, so here's a start.

Before the purple martins showed up this year I had a pair of house finches nest in a plastic gourd, meant for martins. They fledged four young just as the martins were arriving and I haven't seen them since.

Four bluebirds fledged just a couple of weeks ago. A new nest has been built in the same house, with five eggs laid. With any luck, this should be a 3 clutch year for this pair.

I have quit counting tree swallows! I put more than 60 in the air every year - close enough! They always find the fanciest feathers. They must know when and where other birds molt. Before egg laying begins, feathers from a down pillow on a windy day can make for a day of fun with these birds. Let a feather fly and let the games begin, until one grabs the feather and scoots into a house. Some tree swallows from today:
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The Bluebird Trail 2011 - Rated PG!-img_1625.jpg   The Bluebird Trail 2011 - Rated PG!-img_1628.jpg   The Bluebird Trail 2011 - Rated PG!-img_1629.jpg  
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Old 06-11-2011, 09:19 PM   #2
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The site started out with bluebird boxes and two old aluminum purple martin houses. These houses are very common, but the compartments have always been on the small side. 6"X6"X6" is cramped at best when six young martins are only half grown! The houses have been there for almost 35 years and still produce birds. They take up the slack when the new housing fills up. These houses were manufactured with round holes. European starlings will not nest in these small compartments, but they will destroy eggs and kill young. The martins build mud dams in round doors to prevent starling and other bird access. Martins lack a breast bone that allows them to squeeze in. We replicated what they do and created starling resistant entries for housing with large compartments that starlings would otherwise nest in.

Nesting material starts with straw like grasses. Mud is added to some nests - even some in large compartments. After that, anything goes! Coffee stirring sticks seem to be big. Dry leaves are often used early and as soon as green leaves start coming in, eggs start soon after. I would have removed a piece of nesting material today, but it was packed in mud and part of the nest. Shouldn't hurt, but makes one wonder why.
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The Bluebird Trail 2011 - Rated PG!-img_1630.jpg   The Bluebird Trail 2011 - Rated PG!-img_1631.jpg   The Bluebird Trail 2011 - Rated PG!-img_1632.jpg   The Bluebird Trail 2011 - Rated PG!-img_1633.jpg  
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Old 06-11-2011, 09:46 PM   #3
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I added a gourd rack with eight plastic gourds to the site about six years ago. The large compartments were a hit and martins started to fill the gourds. A wooden house with eight large compartments was added a couple of years later. The birds quickly filled this house to 100% occupancy and the first nests and eggs are always started in this house and the latest housing addition. The wooden housing may add insulation, encouraging early nesting in cold areas. Mixing housing types in large colonies may stagger egg laying enough to help the entire colony if weather events cause mortality in young. Slide out nest trays in large compartments are FANTASTIC!!!

The latest housing addition is a custom, 12 compartment unit. This house and the wooden NorthStar have 100% occupancy this year. So far, four of the eight gourds have eggs and six of the 24 aluminum compartments have eggs.

Today's total was 131 eggs in 30 nests. Last week the count was 64 eggs. A couple of new nests have been built and some will never have eggs. Another week should give me a good idea of where I will start. Many eggs won't hatch and some young will die. Last year made a record of at least 104 young martins flying. The first martins will begin to hatch within a couple of weeks.
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The Bluebird Trail 2011 - Rated PG!-img_1635.jpg   The Bluebird Trail 2011 - Rated PG!-img_1637.jpg   The Bluebird Trail 2011 - Rated PG!-img_1638.jpg   The Bluebird Trail 2011 - Rated PG!-img_1641.jpg  
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Old 06-12-2011, 10:16 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fishlkmich View Post
Well, I had a request for some photos and more information, so here's a start.

Before the purple martins showed up this year I had a pair of house finches nest in a plastic gourd, meant for martins. They fledged four young just as the martins were arriving and I haven't seen them since.

Four bluebirds fledged just a couple of weeks ago. A new nest has been built in the same house, with five eggs laid. With any luck, this should be a 3 clutch year for this pair.

I have quit counting tree swallows! I put more than 60 in the air every year - close enough! They always find the fanciest feathers. They must know when and where other birds molt. Before egg laying begins, feathers from a down pillow on a windy day can make for a day of fun with these birds. Let a feather fly and let the games begin, until one grabs the feather and scoots into a house. Some tree swallows from today:
I was glad to hear that the house finch were able to fledge. They have all of the qualities of a desirable, fun species. As to the tree swallows, you must be bombarded by them when opening their boxes? Before the neighbor put up the purple martin house that drew all of the HOSPS, i used to have nesting swallows in boxes I had placed for bluebirds. There was a time in the fledglings development when just walking back to that series of boxes put me in a defensive posture, protecting myself from dive bombing parents.

Back then I was always reluctant to open the box, fearing the parents wouldn't return. I wish now that I had. Their nesting material, especially in juxtaposition with the martins', is beautiful and comfy looking. If I were a chick in a nest, I'd want to be a tree swallow!!!

Great shots!!!
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Old 06-12-2011, 10:25 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fishlkmich View Post
I added a gourd rack with eight plastic gourds to the site about six years ago. The large compartments were a hit and martins started to fill the gourds. A wooden house with eight large compartments was added a couple of years later. The birds quickly filled this house to 100% occupancy and the first nests and eggs are always started in this house and the latest housing addition. The wooden housing may add insulation, encouraging early nesting in cold areas. Mixing housing types in large colonies may stagger egg laying enough to help the entire colony if weather events cause mortality in young. Slide out nest trays in large compartments are FANTASTIC!!!

The latest housing addition is a custom, 12 compartment unit. This house and the wooden NorthStar have 100% occupancy this year. So far, four of the eight gourds have eggs and six of the 24 aluminum
compartments have eggs.

Today's total was 131 eggs in 30 nests. Last week the count was 64 eggs. A couple of new nests have been built and some will never have eggs. Another week should give me a good idea of where I will start. Many eggs won't hatch and some young will die. Last year made a record of at least 104 young martins flying. The first martins will begin to hatch within a couple of weeks.
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.

I see you've had some great experiences with some of our premier bird species. Nice!!!!

Do you notice a paucity of mosquitoes on the trail when the martins are around? They must decimate the bothersome flies and mosquitoes from the area???
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Old 06-12-2011, 08:18 PM   #6
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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 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 wish that you could join me too, Jack! It's hard to find folks who like this stuff. I'll never stop learning and I made a lot of mistakes to get this far. Sure would have been easier to see it first hand, but I did have a lot of resources to fall back on. Just had to make the mistakes and learn how to do things the right way. Is there any wide open area near you that you could use for a small bluebird trail? If you could get away from buildings and woods, you would probably be clear of HOSP and wrens.

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.
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Old 06-12-2011, 08:53 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fishlkmich View Post
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 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 wish that you could join me too, Jack! It's hard to find folks who like this stuff. I'll never stop learning and I made a lot of mistakes to get this far. Sure would have been easier to see it first hand, but I did have a lot of resources to fall back on. Just had to make the mistakes and learn how to do things the right way. Is there any wide open area near you that you could use for a small bluebird trail? If you could get away from buildings and woods, you would probably be clear of HOSP and wrens.

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.
I'll look forward to them!!!!!
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Old 06-12-2011, 09:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fishlkmich View Post
Well, I had a request for some photos and more information, so here's a start.

Before the purple martins showed up this year I had a pair of house finches nest in a plastic gourd, meant for martins. They fledged four young just as the martins were arriving and I haven't seen them since.

Four bluebirds fledged just a couple of weeks ago. A new nest has been built in the same house, with five eggs laid. With any luck, this should be a 3 clutch year for this pair.

I have quit counting tree swallows! I put more than 60 in the air every year - close enough! They always find the fanciest feathers. They must know when and where other birds molt...
How wonderful... Great job (except for the four house finches ) <edit> OOPS... sorry, I was thinking the European *house sparrows* that wreak havoc on the other cavity nesters. <edit>

I never even thought about the possibility of purple martins...great that they were already there for you and you were able to increase their housing!

I hope you get a second brood of bluebirds...I'm hoping I will too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fishlkmich View Post
Before egg laying begins, feathers from a down pillow on a windy day can make for a day of fun with these birds. Let a feather fly and let the games begin, until one grabs the feather and scoots into a house. Some tree swallows from today:

That is so funny! I've gotta try it (although I don't have nearly 60 birds...I've had one pair each year we've been here)...thanks for making me smile.

Great pictures too.
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Last edited by dapjwy; 06-12-2011 at 09:54 PM. Reason: info correction
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Old 06-12-2011, 09:36 PM   #9
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Very informative. Thank you for starting this thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fishlkmich View Post
...The martins build mud dams in round doors to prevent starling and other bird access. Martins lack a breast bone that allows them to squeeze in. We replicated what they do and created starling resistant entries for housing with large compartments that starlings would otherwise nest in.
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?
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Old 06-12-2011, 09:40 PM   #10
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Great photos.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fishlkmich View Post
ILast year made a record of at least 104 young martins flying. The first martins will begin to hatch within a couple of weeks.
...and great news!
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