It was amusing to watch Mrs. Martin try to fit a too-long stick through the apartment door. No matter how much she tilted it or how many times she flew circles around the house, it just wouldn't fit. Eventually she abandoned this nonsense, dropped the stick on the ground, and flew off to find more appropriate sized nesting material.
We love Purple Martins and have been fortunate to have nesting pairs every year since we first put a martin house in our backyard.
One of the keys to our success has to do with the placement of the bird house. There has to be plenty of clear flyway space, so the birds can circle the house as they approach it. If a tree or a building is in the flight zone, they won't even consider your house. Our oak tree has encroached into the flyway space over the past 20 years, but the martins still seem to have enough room to maneuver.
Beyond our control, but also a factor in attracting Purple Martins to our garden is the vacant field behind our fence. This is where the martins spend the day hunting for insects.
As far as I can tell, we only have one pair of nesting Purple Martins this year, even though there are others that seem interested. We would definitely be more successful if there were fewer House Sparrows and European Starlings around. These non-native species will take over martin house apartments, destroy eggs, and kill nestlings.
We are using a martin house with starling-resistant holes and that helps a little. But keeping the sparrows away is impossible. My husband has diligently removed sparrow nests weekly, but they are quick to rebuild again. The last time he checked there were martin eggs in the lower left apartment where Mr. Martin is standing guard. We think they may have hatched, because we've seen both mom and dad flying in with food.
I have asked my husband to leave the nests alone now that there are eggs and possibly babies. My fear is that it will disrupt the balance of things and we'll do more harm than good. Well, according to the Purple Martin Conservation Association, it seems this is wrong thinking and as responsible Purple Martin landlords, we should continue our nest checks. Even after all these years, I have a lot to learn about caring for these birds.
There have been other birds in the garden too...
We've seen a lot of this Northern Cardinal. He and his mate have become regular visitors at our feeder. Cardinals are not rare birds, but they are rarely seen in our garden, so this is exciting!
Our next door neighbor watched the same cardinal pair that have been at our feeder construct a nest in a potted fir tree she has outside her kitchen window. I don't know what happened, but the nest was abandoned. I think they must have a nest somewhere else now, but we haven't found it.
Since we relocated the bird feeder to the center of the backyard under the oak tree, we've been feeding lots of Blue Jays, a bird our town is known for. It's the high school mascot and our police officers even wear a Blue Jay patch on their uniform. This pretty bird is feeling quite relaxed at our platform feeder as evidenced by the way it has lowered its crown.
Today's post is my contribution to Wildlife Wednesday—a meme, hosted by Tina at My Gardener Says..., that celebrates wildlife in the garden on the first Wednesday of every month.