You may recall from a previous post entitle Purple Martin Scouts Have Arrived that the spring season is the time when we open our martin condo for the in-migrating birds to take up residence. Now that the martins have departed the area in favor of warmer climes, it is time for us to clean out the nesting cavities of the condo and seal them off until next spring. But how do I reach the martin house, which is at the top of a very tall pole? The sharp eyed among you may notice that the pole is equipped with a crank and pulley mechanism, which make it simple to lower the unit for periodic maintenance.
Once the unit is in the lowered position, I proceed to clean out the nesting materials that the birds have placed inside the cavities. Each cavity has a hinged opening, which facilitates cleaning.
The martin condo that we have installed comes with removable aluminum floor plates. The plates elevate the nest off of the condo floor, allowing for air circulation which helps to prevent molds and fungi from developing within the nesting materials. As you may well imagine, the floor plates accumulate quite a bit of debris during the course of the season, so that it is imperative to scrub them clean before closing up the house for the winter. A scrub brush and some high pressure water makes them look like new, as you can see from the photograph above.
After making certain that the insides of the condo cavities are sparkling clean, the floor plates are replaced, and then it is time to affix the plugs into the cavity holes. This will prevent nuisance birds from taking up residence in the condo, which is designated for “purple martins only” (read the lease documents, you darn sparrows and cowbirds).
Now it is an easy task to crank the martin house back to the top of the pole, where it will remain idle until the martins return to the area next spring.
This season we experienced mixed results with this particular martin house. I installed this condo on the site of a previously successful, but smaller martin house (this condo has 24 cavities, the previous house had 12). I relocated the smaller martin house in another location, about 300-400 feet away from this spot, and it has attracted martins this season. This spring saw a few cavities with martin activity in the new unit, but far fewer than we had hoped for. There may be two possible reasons for this. First, notice the fence in the background of these photographs. This section of fencing was under construction at the very time that the martins would have been establishing their nests this past spring. The close proximity of the condo to the construction activity may have deterred the martins from nesting in the condo unit. Second, we now have three cats in residence, and while they do not seem to have intimidated any of the other birds that frequent our yard, they just might make the martins a tad nervous.
Although this martin condo was not filled to capacity this spring and summer, do not think that we did not see purple martins. To the contrary, martins were a regular sight to behold this past summer. The natural habitat of purple martins are dead trees, and because we have an abundance of dead trees around our acreage (see post entitled Seeing Things In a New Light), many martins continue to call this spot their summer home, despite the fact that they did not utilize the condo to the extent we would have liked. We shall be persistent, and I believe the purple martins will eventually book this condo to capacity each and every spring – at least, that is our hope.
Off topic aside: This is the time of year that I am very busy with tractor work, getting my fields, clearings, and pastures in order. And don’t forget the billions of leaves that fall off the trees, some of which must be picked up by this stickler for a neat lawn. Because of these, and other projects that I have been undertaking, I have found less time to devote to writing blog posts than I would like. Soon, I will be caught up with my work, and my posting (for better or worse) will be more frequent. Thanks for continuing to check in regularly, I really do appreciate it.