"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

Showing posts with label new PM season. Show all posts
Showing posts with label new PM season. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Racing Time - Purple Martin Season 2017 Begins

On Saturday morning, March 4th, 2017, I got a phone call around 9 AM.  "Sorry if I woke you", the voice said.  After a few seconds, he finally said, "It's Luther"!  Oh, YAY!  "Hey, I have a scout", he said.  My mind zipped to the calendar and I realized that somehow, March had quietly arrived and I had somehow missed it.  I was excited for Luther - "FIRST TIME EVER, you've seen your martins arrive before mine", I shouted.  He was tickled.  I was tickled.  And then I suddenly realized, I've been far too busy with work to even notice the changes in the season.  Congratulations, Luther & Fonda on the first sighting of the season!  Now, I need to get busy.
Later that day, I decided to go out and enjoy the sun and make sure I had some gourds out, since I had to leave soon on yet another business trip.  It was hard to get into the spirit of the season after having experienced my most difficult year.  But, after raking up 5 bags of white pine needles and stuffing a few gourds, muscle-memory took over, along with the warmth of the sun and a bit of joy started to shine through.
That afternoon, as I hung the last gourd on my rack for the day, I heard that familiar chirp. I looked skyward and found her.  Yes, for only the second time in the history of my colony a female showed up first!  She flew circles around and around me, and as she shared her joy of being home, through tears of joy, I managed to say, "hello Gorgeous, THERE you are!"  I felt so honored, after such a devastating last year, that they would actually return to my site.  It didn't take long - later that evening, she had already found a male ASY to keep her warm at night.  Ironically, my first dude back has a pretty yellow band on his left leg, so I'll be getting his number soon.  Looks like SHE already has his number.
First arrivals - 2017 - the male in the upper left gourd is banded.

As I stood and watched them both circle my site and chirp their happy, "hello" to me, I suddenly realized that I have been way too engrossed in my job to engage in the things that bring me joy.  With all the travel and work stress, I had forgotten that this is where I find my peace and center myself.
It has been almost 3 weeks since that first pair showed up and I now have 20 martins on-site.
I am a pro at not only creating bad habits, but also breaking them and I am getting myself outside every evening when they come home and watching them as they swirl round & round the site, each circle bringing them lower & lower to the gourd racks, until they finally zip right into their own gourds and get instantly quiet for the night.  What a delight!
The Trendsetter has been taken down this year.  Even if I installed a larger cage on it, I couldn't get past the memories of last year and it obviously had become a magnet for the GHO.  Instead of digging yet another hole in the yard though, we decided to use the existing Trendsetter ground stake that is firmly ensconced in a way-over-engineered concrete hole which will definitely hold the new super system.  But first, we had to adapt the 2" square ground stake to the new 3" pole.
We were finally able to find a talented fabricator and he created a new ground stake that would help us transition the 2" ground stake to the new 3" ground stake I needed for the new Super System.
The inner measurement of the square had to be 1 11/16" to fit tightly around the existing ground stake.

The length had to be 27".  The fabricator was very clever in how he built this new ground stake up to exactly the right measurements.  He used the welds and plates to make the second outer tube fit solidly on the inner square tube, finally creating the exact size - 2 11/16"- needed to fit inside the 3" gourd rack pole.

Bob added some grease to the existing 2" ground stake to help with water and ensure the new stake slide on more easily.
Then slid on the new ground stake and greased the outside of it also.
The new rack is in place and all the arms have been mounted.  I still have some work cut out for me - this weekend, I need to install the new cage on this new system, but the worst part is now over.  Each step brings me closer to letting go of the Trendsetter and its memories and looking forward to a new season.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Preparing for the Return of Your Martins

Well, February just slipped right by me and before I realized it, it was slipping out the door and waving goodbye!  Suddenly March was here and I am now trying to catch up!  I blinked I guess.  I checked the scout report yesterday and found that a martin has arrived at an older colony just 30 minutes south of me.  Last year, my martins arrived within 2 days of Joe's, so while I'm hoping that doesn't happen this year, I thought I'd send out this friendly reminder.

Hopefully, you’ve already been taking advantage of the few warm days that we’ve had and have some of these chores already completed.  If not, then print out this page and get started!  Your martins may not arrive soon, but preparing your site now will accomplish two things; 1) it will help keep you busy as you worry, “where are my martins?” and 2) it will ensure that when your martins DO arrive, you’ll have plenty of time to kick back with a pair of binoculars and enjoy every minute. 
Here’s your list – now get to it!

  1. Locate your predator guards and install on your poles to ensure that your martins will be safe from raccoons, snakes and other pole-climbing predators.  If you don’t have predator guards, now is a good time to either purchase one or make one for each of your poles.  Even if you don’t see any raccoons or snakes on your property, they are there and will strike at any time.  I am reprinting the section on Predators in this first newsletter as this is one of the most crucial aspects of caring for martins and may be the one thing that can make or break your colony.  Click here to find instructions on how to make a homemade predator guard:  http://www.purplemartin.org/update/PredBaff.html 
    A martin's-eye-view of a raccoon and the stovepipe baffle pole mount. The slick metal baffle wobbles on the pole preventing the raccoon from climbing to the box. The mesh inside the baffle keeps snakes from slithering up the pole. Illustration by Julie Zickefoose. © PMCA
  2. If you didn’t clean out their housing at the end of last year, now would be a good time to remove all the old nesting material and remove nests that have been built by house sparrows / starlings.
  3. Check the ropes, cables and winches on your gourd racks or housing.  Look for frayed ropes and cable wires and inspect closely for signs of rust.  If the cable or rope is frayed, then you need to replace them immediately.  If you have surface rust on your cable or winch, then you can simply use some WD-40 or follow the directions for your winch to oil/grease the mechanisms.
    Replacing Rope:  Rope: Polyester rope or nylon rope, or a combination of the two, are the best choices for outdoor use. Both will last up to 20 years. Polyester rope is the best choice and easy to find. Nylon rope is not common; look for solid, braided 100% nylon—it will be white in color. Nylon has more stretch than polyester, so may require tightening due to stretching. Avoid polypropylene rope, often mistakenly referred to as nylon rope.  It is usually yellow in color, and will last only two years when used outdoors. (reference:  PMCA)  Click on this link to read some helpful safety hints to save yourself from a trip to the emergency room or a concussion:  http://www.purplemartin.org/update/13%284%29Safety.pdf
  4. Check the nuts and bolts used to attach your poles together or mount your winch to your poles.  Tighten or replace if necessary.
  5. Check the doors on your housing and the port caps on your gourds to make sure they either raise & lower easily or come off easily.
  6. Ensure that the numbers on each of your compartments are large and clear so that you can read them with binoculars at a reasonable distance (Yes – numbering your nestboxes helps you keep track!)
  7. Run your housing or gourds up and down the poles a few times and make sure that they do not rotate around your pole.  The nest cavities must always stay oriented in the same direction when the housing is raised back up.
  8. Find a good source of Eastern White Pine needles and place up to 2-3 good sized handfuls in your gourds and at least 2 handfuls in your housing.
  9. Speaking of predators, hawks are on the prowl and they’re hungry.  Put up purple martin decoys to deter the hawks and help your martins escape.  With 75 pair last year, I will be putting up 14 purple martin decoys and 4 dove decoys at my site this season. http://shop.purplemartin.org/Purple_Martin_Decoys___4_Pack-details.aspx  
    Decoys can be mounted to your perches with hose clamps or other fasteners. They must be mounted securely, as hawks and owls will grab them.  To keep the mount from rotating around your rod, use some electrical tape under the fastening mechanism.  A Cooper's hawk repeatedly tried to grab several of my decoys last year, as evidenced by the scratches on this poor fellow.  This decoy was awarded a medal at the end of the year for his brave service while protecting my colony.

  10. Locate your starling and house sparrow traps and start trapping and eliminate these pests as quickly as possible before, during and after your martins’ arrival.
  11. Gather up all your nest check equipment and buy a cheap tackle box to put it in.  I personally stole a nice, heavy duty tool box from my husband and it works wonderfully!
  12. Buy yourself a cheap notebook with lined pages (you can get one for $.25 from the dollar store) and write down all your data this year.  
  13. Lastly, find your binoculars, camera and lawn chair because by the time you’re done with all the above, they’ll be here!