So, we have a little time until our Purple Martins return, February 2022 to be exact.
If you prepare now, you won’t have to go out when it’s cold to build something. As my friends know, I do not like cold weather. That means that now is good time to brush up on things we might encounter when the Martins are here.
A question I get often is, what do I do when a baby is on the ground? First of all, it’s not a good thing for sure. But it happens.
I am only going to address this situation if the nestling is in good health but is not old enough to fly on its own. Sometimes they fall out, and sometimes they are knocked out by first-year Martins (teenagers) who like to get into mischief.
This happened to me last year and I was successful in helping the baby fledge (fly on its own).
I put together a makeshift emergency house for it, so the parents could feed it. It just needed a few more days until it could fly. I was not sure it would work, but I gave it a try, since staying on the ground is bad.
I had a feeder a friend made for me, and I added some cedar scraps I had to keep the wind out and protect it. I added some pine needles and a little nest in the corner and put it near the Gourd Rack up on a shepherd’s hook.
I watched for several hours, and nothing happened. Just as I was getting depressed thinking the baby was doomed, one of the parents brought it a bug. YES!!! Some success.
The parents only came once a day, but it was enough to save the baby. It was hungry and after the third day it jumped out and flew.
I was so happy. So, you see that sometimes you can help a little bit and life goes on.
We have not been able to hear the lovely and enchanting sound of our Martin friends since they left in late summer.
Have any of you wondered where they go and what they are doing right now? I thought you might want to know.
The Martins leave on their migration journey in late summer. They are coming from as far north as the border of Canada. So quite a journey for some. Others have mated and reside here in Texas. They might be the smarter ones. Not as far to migrate when the time comes.
No one knows for sure how they decide the time to get going south. Factors such as weather and available food factor into the decision. Martins are highly social birds. After leaving their nesting colonies where their landlords cared for them, they form communal roosts. They will sleep at night and wait for more to join them.
Then all of a sudden, they will start to leave a few at a time and head South. They arrive and live amongst the Amazon jungles and South American areas where water is plentiful. They will live in these areas which include Venezuela, Columbia, Bolivia, and the most researched Sao Paulo Brazil till the instinct to return to North America comes over them.
Who returns first? It is the older males first. This is most likely to obtain the highest and safest housing. Of course, this can be the worst thing if the weather stays too cold or wet.
The youngest Martins may take 6 weeks to return. So many things can end their journey. Weather, food, and loss of their housing can result in loss of life. One banded female was confirmed to have made a 4,000-mile trip in 47 days to return to her landlord.
Climate Change is also becoming a factor. When an unexpected freeze occurs here in Texas, the insects that die from it mean no food for the Martins. They do not and will not eat seeds like many other birds. They eat live insects.
Time will tell how our friends can adapt to the changing world around them. If I can help them, I will.
But we also have to remember that we cannot make them pets. They need to stay wild.
By Michael Mitchell, Retired Game Warden and an El Camino Real chapter founder, now living in Austin
Corona virus has sent tremors around the world, grounded a billion people, cost trillions, and killed millions. Originating perhaps in a wet market in Wuhan China, many people attribute the origin to an illegally traded wildlife animal. Even if an alternate human-caused theory is viable, the occurrence of SARS (2002 and 2003), Swine Flu (2009), MERS (2013) and other recent zoonotic diseases still demonstrate the enormous risk that illegally trafficked animals present to humankind.
Zoonotic diseases are ones which can be passed from animals to humans. The source animals are typically vertebrates. But zoonotic diseases are not something to sneeze at. Over 75 percent of new diseases discovered in the last decade are zoonotic. Frighteningly, 61 percent of all human diseases are zoonotic in origin. And it is estimated that there are currently 1,500,000 diseases in wildlife that we know nothing about.
I’m concerned that we will have an acceleration of zoonoses as populations grow, climate change looms, farming systems intensify, health systems strain, deforestation increases, antimicrobial resistance extends, and agricultural trade boosts.
The exact wild animal, and the science linking the animal to the human outbreak with COVID, remains in debate. But the world’s attention should be drawn to the practice of illegal wildlife trafficking. The pangolin, for example, is the world’s most illegally trafficked animal. While the Corona virus has brought this to the world’s attention, more must be done as human lives, endangered species, and zoonotic disease risk are at stake.
The US has a role in all of this. It is one of the 176 countries involved in trafficking, often acting as a prominent destination of illegal animals. These days live birds and reptiles are the dominant US illegal imports. But we also have unusual problems that we create, such as a lack of corporate transparency in, say, Delaware corporations. We also tend to lead the way in, say, technologies (think of major online auction sites as an example) that inadvertently create marketplaces enabling trafficking. Fortunately the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online now consists of 47 member companies across the tech sector and is making progress in this lattermost area.
Wildlife trafficking is the world’s fourth largest transnational crime, lagging behind drugs, counterfeiting, and human smuggling. It generates something between $8 and 20 billion annually. The cost is very difficult to pinpoint. Over 7,000 species of plants and animals are impacted worldwide.
These wildlife challenges are widespread. In Africa we saw the last northern white rhino in 2018. But right here in Texas, we saw the last native San Marcos gambusia in 1983.
There are no moats around modern countries in our modern world. International conservation efforts must stop the devastation of species, such as pangolins, rhinos and elephants, birds, reptiles, timber, medicinal plants, and more. Over 250 non governmental organizations (NGOs) have called for a commercial end to wildlife trade in 2020. It’s not about one particular country…it’s all of us who are involved in a cycle of demand, trafficking, and poaching.
Wildlife trafficking is big business. But the stakes for the world couldn’t be higher. The time to act is now, and the reasons are stronger than ever. I’m very proud of the work of Texas, United States, and other countries in fighting the problem. Here’s some things you might consider doing wherever you are:
Reduce meat consumption.
Become educated of the origin of our foods. Sources, locations, processes. From apples to chicken, from chiles to fish.
Become involved in sustainable food production, upholding animal welfare and a merciful death. Their health is our health.
Empower environmental agencies, institutions, and organizations.
Don’t just document the disgrace. Take action: if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.
Children can get all the toys in the world, but they will always marvel at a living thing.
Establish environmental education at primary and secondary schools.
Work to bridge the gap between hunters and non-hunters, as well as those opposed to harvest activities.
Increase access to private lands.
Support private land conservation initiatives.
Maintain public lands.
Establish broad-based funding.
This is the kind of stuff that really makes me think. And weep. It reminds me of the old African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”