You may recall from last time that one pair of Purple Martins had built a nest in our house and laid eggs.
We spent many hours in June observing them and their brood. We had high hopes for their success, but unfortunately, sometimes there's not much that can be done to change the outcome.
HATCH DAY (6/3/16):
We were excited to find three hatchlings and one pipping egg. Baby martins aren't exactly cute—they are born featherless with eyes that are grown shut. It will be 26-32 days before they are ready to leave the nest.
All four babies appear to be doing well. They have grown quite a bit, but still do not have feathers and their eyes are still shut. That little one poking its head out the entrance seems to be smiling at me.
Finally, there is feather development and their eyes are open.
Mama and Daddy Martin both take part in raising their brood. This pair seems experienced and are very good parents. Even with the two of them working together though, it's not easy to satisfy this hungry bunch. It looks like dragonflies are on the menu today.
Up until this point the baby martins seemed to be fine. However, on this nest check, the brood is split between two apartments and that makes me suspicious that something is wrong. It is very hot outside so perhaps it's cooler for them this way.
The next day the babies are on the move and have free reign of the lower three apartments. Before we left for church one fell to the ground and we had to rescue it. When we got home there was another one on the ground. We could see no trace of mites or other parasites that might be making the babies jump ship early, but something is wrong. One of the babies stayed out on the birdhouse porch all day in the hot sun and the parents refused to feed it. By the end of the day, it had succumbed. The next morning, we had also lost a second one.
Once again there is a baby bird out of the nest. It can flap its wings and run, but cannot fly. I put it back, but I don't expect it will stay put.
Sure enough, the very next day it was out again. When I tried to help, it ran away from me and hid under the storage shed. I knew this was a bad choice and hoped it would come out before nightfall. I went inside and watched from the window. After several hours of urging from its parents, it came out of it's hiding place, but changed it's mind and went back under. I never saw it again. This left only one baby bird and it didn't look well to me.
This should have been fledging day or close to it, but the last remaining baby didn't make it. I have no idea what went wrong. The martin parents were diligent in feeding and defending their brood all the way through and we saw no sign of parasites.
Obviously this is not the story I hoped to share with you and I hate ending on such a sad note, so here's a photo of a successful fledge from July 2009—a reminder to me that sometimes things do go right.