So a couple years ago I asked my Grandmother if I could have my Grandpa's old Purple Martin House. He had it for years, and I have so many fond memories of sitting on his lap on the porch listening to the Martin's sing, and watching them swoop around catching bugs. He was passionate about his Martins and when he started to get sick the Martin house became neglected and the birds stopped coming. After he died the Martin house was taken down and left in a corner of one of the barns. My Grandmother was surprised I wanted it, especially because it was in really bad shape! But she said I could take it if I really wanted it, and even enlisted some of my uncles to help pull up the pole and mounting system for me.
It's been a couple of years and I had to track down some missing parts online
(this particular martin house is no longer manufactured and the company was bought out); the house needed a good clean, and the mounting system was so badly out of order that my husband and I had to come up with an entirely new pulley system.
We got the house set up and mounted back in May. There's a smal colony of Martin's that have frequented our neighborhood pool, and a couple other neighbors have already put up houses for them. The Martins started flying around overhead before we even got the house all the way up the pole, and within about 30 seconds of getting it set they were already checking it out!
We've got 8-9 Martins that have decided to make our yard
their home; three nesting pairs, and some other sub-adults who are practicing their nest building but not laying eggs yet.
Week 1: Found the beginnings of nests in three of the boxes. Lots of sticks and dried grass, and a little mud to hold them together.
Week 2: Nest building continued, with lots of leaves and sticks, lots of mud shoring them up. Martins are really active and have discovered the butterflies around the passionflower vines.
Week 3: One of the nests was lined with little leaves, the last step before egg-laying! The other two nests were bigger and a couple of boxes on the back side of the house had sticks and grass in them.
Week 4: We have eggs! The nest with the leaves has five little white eggs in it. One of the other nests is now lined with leaves and mud. Other boxes have small amounts of grass and sticks from where the sub-adults are practicing their building skills.
Week 5: Three babies hatched, two eggs left. Second nest has three eggs. Other nests stayed about the same level of incomplete.
Week 6: All five eggs in the first nest are hatched. Babies are starting to darken in color. Second nest has three hatched babies! One other nest is now lined with leaves and ready for eggs, and another nest has eggs.
Since our Martin colony is so new, I'm not doing daily nest checks. I don't want to stress out my young parents or their babies, so I check the nest twice a week. If it rains or gets extra windy we lower the house to half-mast on the pole to stabilize it. Now that there are babies we do a daily ground check to make sure no one has fallen out or had an accident. The Martins are getting very protective and will now dive-bomb me and fuss at me while I'm working in my garden! I don't really mind that much, but it's definitely a bit unnervineg at first!
We're debating putting up some netting under the house; snakes can be a real problem for Martin colonies and can wipe out an entire group in one go. I've just got to figure out at way to affix the netting that won't endanger the Martins while they're flying around. I may need to get a thicker/darker netting so they can see it and steer clear. Option 2 is to grease the pole, but the pole is quite close to some of the garden beds
and I don't want something nasty washing into the dirt and ground. I'll have to do some research about ways to grease the pole that are environmentally friendly.