"I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free." ~Wendell Berry

Thursday, March 26, 2015

You Have Bunny Mail

"I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."
--Missouri's U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver - 1899
Missouri's unofficial state slogan is "Show Me" and regardless of how it originated, it is now used to indicate the stalwart, noncredulous character of Missourians.  Since 2010, I have been sending out a newsletter and publishing newspaper articles on purple martins in order to meet Missouri landlords.  I have participated in multiple purple martin forums and seen many of those come and go along the way.  I've seen all types of people on this journey; there are the "keyboard warriors" who are really only interested in sitting behind a keyboard and offering their sage advice to anyone they can get to listen, but they never really "show me" anything.  Others are only interested in sharing their pictures and talking about themselves, never really showing me anything either.  Then there are those who do, much to my delight, really "show me".
One of the first landlords with whom I first made contact in late 2011 when he subscribed to my newsletter was Jerry, located in Troy, MO, approximately 150 miles north east of my location.
How Jerry found out about me, I don't even recall - we've never even met; but he has been in regular contact since that time, letting me know how his colony is growing, issues he's dealing with and his nest check and fledge results. 
In 2011, he had 26 pair and after losing ~20 birds to a Great Horned Owl, he added the red flashing NiteGuard lights to the top of his rack to try to deter it, along with individual owl guards for his gourds.
Jerry's gourd racks.  The GHO just laughed at his red blinky lights.

The lights didn't help with his issues but the wire owl guards did, losing only one to an owl in 2012.  Even with the continued owl problems, his colony continued to grow and he reported 38 nesting pair in 2012, with 116 fledged.
In July 2013, I received an email from Jerry with the subject line, "You Have Mail - Bunny".  My curiosity piqued, I opened it and spewed my coffee on my monitor.  Jerry's owl had paid his site another visit and left him a present (and maybe a message?) on his starling trap.  Who knew that an owl could be so vindictive?
Jerry said, "This is exactly how it was found.  HONEST."
Jerry offered 48 gourds and hosted 36 pair with 153 fledged in 2013 and last year, in 2014, with his colony hitting its stride at 8 years old, Jerry decided to do something unselfish and extraordinary.  He decided to help his neighbor, who lives 1/4 mile away, attract purple martins.  Jerry had sold Bruce his smaller gourd rack, but Bruce was not having any luck with attracting his own martins.  Jerry decided it was time to take some drastic measures to help Bruce start a purple martin colony. 
Jerry started out the 2014 season by only opening 16 gourds at his colony.  As the number of martins grew, so did the fighting.  This was prime real estate and the older adults knew it!  After 2 weeks Jerry was ready to throw in the towel, but he was willing to go one more week.  Finally, before Jerry had to resort to anxiety medication, Bruce reported by 4/22 that he had 7 martins staying at his site.
Jerry happily threw open the doors, offering 48 gourds total.  He finished the year with 40 pair, 174 fledged and lost 4 fledges to his GHO.
And his neighbor?  Bruce ended the year with 8 pair.  How cool is that?
Both Bruce and Jerry are gearing up for a purple martin palooza this year.  They have have each now installed a Super System 24 in their backyards, with Jerry offering 72 gourds and Bruce offering 36 gourds in 2015.
These type of people - these fellow Missourians truly step up to the plate and show me.  I am so proud to live in a state where they don't just talk the talk - they walk the walk.
Fellow Missourians - showing and leading the way for the future of purple martins - you make me proud to be a part of it.  Thank you, Jerry and Bruce - best of luck to you both this year!  Jerry, I look forward to more "Bunny" mail from you.

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.
--Orison Swett Marden

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Missouri Dept. of Conservation Purple Martin Presentation March 2015

What do you do if you have purple martin fever in the early spring, but your colony has not returned yet?  The cure for the fever, I have found, is to speak with people who are interested in attracting them and share our passion for purple martins!  I was delighted to receive a request from Lesly Holt at our local Missouri Department of Conservation office in early January, asking if I would be available to give a presentation on Purple Martins in the early spring.  With free pizza on the menu and the ability to talk about my favorite topic to a group of 35 people for 2.5 hours, who could say no?
Yesterday evening, I packed up my Troyer vertical and horizontal gourds, all my traps (sans the live English House sparrows), predator guards, decoys, and literature provided to me by the MDC and PMCA, stuffed my car as full as I could and happily made the trek to the YMCA in Mountain Grove, MO.

Brochure supplied by the MDC, co-authored by John Miller, Purple Martin landlord - Forest Park - St. Louis. 
Read the whole brochure here: http://mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/resources/2010/09/9778_6759.pdf

Another great information booklet, free from the PMCA!

Energized by the sunshine, my favorite tunes on the radio and the prospect of helping numerous people become new purple martin landlords, I arrived at the YMCA 45 minutes before showtime.  I was so impressed with the building and had no idea that the city of Mountain Grove had built such a nice facility!  The beautiful polished floors of the volleyball court made me want to grab my knee pads, tennis shoes and shorts and hit the court again, but then reality returned - I don't play for the Navy Women's volleyball team anymore and probably shouldn't try.  Well, maybe if I were playing with people my own age who were just as cautious about falling down now as I am, and not with the youngsters that were throwing themselves across the shiny floor, sliding so they didn't lose the point.  So, I just contented myself with watching them, knowing that one day, their knees would creak and moan too!  But I digress - it is a beautiful facility for those of you that want to do any special meetings, or just get some exercise.
Lesly, my MDC hostess is a very energetic lady and a bit hard for me to keep up with.  She had everything almost ready and we went to work putting it all together.  With 35 people en route and pizzas to pickup, Lesly was like a little Tasmanian Devil - good thing she was there to help me, or I'd never have been able to pull it off in time!  We had a great time - of the 35 attending, only 5 (including myself) currently have purple martin colonies.  Two of those 5 were also PMCA members and people with whom I have communicated in the recent past - Keith Pelham from nearby Ava and Greta Webb - a longtime PMCA supporter and Purple martin landlord since 1987.
Keith's natural gourds generated a lot of interest from a few folks.  It was nice to finally meet Keith and his wife, Mildred and I was so grateful for his sharing of his expertise with natural gourds - certainly a great option for providing housing for Purple Martins.
Greta (left) - long time PMCA supporter and purple martin lover and Keith's lovely wife, Mildred.  Greta donated the MSS-12 Trio house that you see in the other photos, so I could find it a good home.  I think I've found one already.
Our very animated host, Lesly Holt - Missouri Department of Conservation, ringing the dinner bell.
The attendees are now energized and excited - the timing was excellent - they have the information they need in order to get housing properly located and be ready in time for the 2015 migration.  This was such a great opportunity to reach out to those folks looking to start new colonies and I am so proud to live in a state where the Conservation department is so supportive of our lovely native animals, especially my beloved purple martins.  It's a bonus that I've met even more people who will hopefully become as crazy as I am about "America's Most Wanted Bird".  I'm looking forward to more outreach programs such as this one!
It's helpful to the attendees if you have actual items / props to show them what you are describing.  My display tables were overflowing with all kinds of items.

Break time provided lots of opportunity for one-on-one discussions around the display tables.
I'm a very animated speaker on this topic.  The photographer had a hard time keeping up with me.

Show & Tell!  I had brought 2 verticals and 2 horizontals.  Turns out, I should have brought more!
A large room, filled with prospective new landlords.  I can't wait to hear how their season goes this year!
Special thanks to my photographer, Terry Morrison - it is always wonderful to see you at these events!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Purple Martins Moving into Missouri-Migration 2015

I'm so glad I decided to pull on my wading boots this past weekend to trudge through the water & muck to raise some housing and a few gourds.  With mud up over my ankles, I kept thinking, I can take my time.  But in looking at the Scout Report on the PMCA site, I can see that will not be the case.  Apparently, the martins are in a hurry this year!
With scouts reported in Webb City, Steelville and Washington, MO on Sunday, 3/8, it looks like we need to be ready for a potential arrival any day now.  There were also reports from southern Illinois and Kentucky!
See the scout reports here: http://www.purplemartin.org/scoutreport/scout.php?Y=2015&S=MO

The PMCA also hosts a very nice forum that has been active and growing since 1997.  So, if any of you are interested in joining the discussion and sharing your stories, you can join here by clicking on the 'Register' button:


Joining the forum is free and there are lots of experienced landlords from across the United States, including myself, to chat with.  It's pretty busy right now and you can make contact with other landlords in your area.
Now that the season is upon us, I'll be publishing more short articles with helpful tips and methods that work for me at my site, as well as updates on how my owl encounters go this year and the effectiveness of my owl guards.  A couple of you have already offered to let me share your purple martin stories on my blog also, so look for those in upcoming posts!
Thanks to all of you that are reaching out to other existing landlords and landlords that want to attract martins this year to share what you have learned.  You all are making Missouri a very attractive state for purple martins!
Don't forget about the Purple Martin Workshop, hosted by the Missouri Conservation Department, coming up on March 17th at the YMCA in Mountain Grove from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM!  Contact me via this blog, and I will forward your reservation.
Feel free to print or share the article at the link below to help new landlords:

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Spring-We Welcome Your Warm Embrace

It seems like it has been forever since we have seen a warm day.  'Warm' is relative though isn't it?  I was thrilled when the thermometer hit 42 degrees this morning and threw open the windows.  With temperatures forecasted to be rising to 64 degrees by next Thursday, I am preparing to deploy my mason bee tubes.  I have been cutting and rolling tubes for weeks now. 
It's also a fun project for kids to do.  I have 40 mason bee cocoons in the refrigerator that are 2/3rd through their food supply, so I'll be monitoring the weather very closely and checking out the wild plum and cherry trees to watch for signs of blooming.
On our way to 60 degrees today, I'm headed out to prepare both the mason bee housing and my purple martin housing.  Last year, my purple martins arrived on March 10th, and with warmer days now in the forecast, it's time to pull on my mud boots, trudge through all the mud and muck left by the melting snow & ice and put up their housing. 
For now, a few quick pictures!
Materials: Ruler, regular #2 pencil, scissors, tape, parchment paper (I also have a roll of unbleached parchment paper, not shown in this picture).  The pencil is the exact diameter for the mason bee holes.

40 mason bee cocoons, waiting for the right temps and food.

My holding can.  Arranging different lengths of tubes together presents a 3D effect is supposed help the mason bee more easily find her home.