The Martins Are Close Now

by Donna Lewis

It is now time to have your Martin Housing ready to open.  If you noticed, I said ready, NOT open yet.  You do not want to open the cavities till you hear the Martins at your site.

If you do, you will have a House Sparrow hotel.  You cannot allow the House Sparrows to live in the Martin housing.  They will kill the Martins for the nest.

So, when you see or most likely hear your first Martins arrive, roll down your gourds or apartments and open only a few of the entrances. Open more as more Martins arrive.

It’s a delicate dance for sure. The more you do it, the better you get.

Putting everything back after the Martins have been gone for six months is hard on us senior folk. So, I was lucky this year to have some wonderful volunteers from our Master Naturalist Chapter come over and install the gourds and the Owl Guards for me. Cindy and Gene Rek came last week and did this for me.

The photo of my gourd rack shows the Reks installing the gourds.

As of 1-20-2023 the updated scout report has Martins arriving in Louisiana and Florida. So, they could arrive here in three to four weeks. 

The rack is in its down position for now.

I get asked why I would go to so much trouble for these birds.   Once you hear their beautiful songs, you will know why.  It’s truly a wonder you will not forget.

The Gourds with our friends in 2020.

I will run the houses up the first week in February and I will let everyone know when my first Martin arrives. Martins depend on human-supplied housing now, almost exclusively.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world” 

–Anne Frank

Soon the Purple Martins Will Arrive

by Donna Lewis

OK, very soon our beautiful Martins will be sending out scouts to look for their summer homes. They are in Brazil right now. The Martins in Central Texas will be showing up around Valentine’s Day (February 14th).  Is it too cold then?  Yes, it is.

The climate has moved our seasons a little, but our friends have not changed their timetables.  Not a good thing for them.

This is one of the hazards of climate change.  The weather is changing faster than many birds or animals can adapt. If you watch the birds or keep records of your vegetable gardens you will know what I mean.

Observations are especially important to know what is going on in our world.

This is the time when you need to get your housing ready for them. You do NOT want to open the houses, just get them installed, cleaned or however you prepare your houses.  You will open the entrances after you see them arrive.  You also want to have any housing you hope to attract Martins to up before they arrive. Their arrivals are different across the US.

Repairs or cleaning should be done now if you have not already done it. Old nesting material should be removed, and the house cleaned. You can add some pine-needles to the house (or gourd) if you like.

Plugging the entrances to any housing is critical to keep unwanted visitors out.

The Martins will let you know when they arrive.  You will be able to hear them calling you. It is the song all Martin landlords cannot wait to hear again.

No matter how often I hear them sing the “dawn song” to call for mates I never mistake it.  It is wonderful and reminds us why nature is so important to the world. It is unlike any other bird’s song.

Here are the pictures of both of my houses right now.  Within the next couple of weeks, they will be open for business.

So, get ready for PURPLE to arrive.

Prairie Restoration Progress: Johnsongrass Removal

by Eric Neubauer

Many people in the chapter have probably heard about my continuing war on Johnsongrass. Here’s a shot from out in the yard of an area that was once overrun. You can see bunches of native grass which grow to about 4′, drifts of goldenrod, and a poverty weed. It’s about 30′ from the bunchgrass to the house. Although the initial Johnsongrass pulling was taxing, maintaining the area got easier with time. After several years it has dwindled to pulling scatted seedlings once or twice a year. The native plants were already there and just needed sunlight to thrive.

What do I do with all the pulled Johnsongrass? I decided to build haystacks to provide shelter for various animals. This one is conveniently located near the powerline that various raptors were hunting from last winter. The canes are arranged with the roots on the outside so they dry out and die, and the seed heads are on the inside where they won’t spread and germinate. The stack is about 12′ in diameter and 4′ tall now.

Johnson grass haystack

Another Drought and Watering Update

Donna Lewis

Hello nature lovers…

I saw something this morning that was very sad and showed just how the weather and our actions as humans can help or harm the other living creatures that share our earth.

I had just gone out (7:00 am) to my garden to fill up all the bird baths and water containers that I have out to help the birds and other creatures find water. I also put out bird seed.

Just as I opened the gate, I looked across the garden to see a Cottontail rabbit standing on its hindlegs to drink from a bird bath that was half empty.  Its little ribs were showing the impact of the drought… I was very moved by the sight of it. I was happy that I had many low-level water containers already out in different areas.

This is why we need to put out more water containers for wildlife now. Some of these containers need to go on the ground for the mammals, snakes and others who cannot get up to a bird bath on a pedestal.

I am going to put more out today. I searched for anything I could use.  Yes, even a frisbee can hold water.

You do not need to clean the containers every day. Just put fresh water in. You can clean the containers once a week or every few days.

Put the water under the shade if you can. Anything to keep it cooler. This goes for the Hummingbird feeders too.

Does putting water out for animals matter?  YES, if you help even one living thing to survive, you have made a difference.

We have to start doing, not just thinking about doing something.

I hear this too often: don’t worry someone will do it… We are the someone.  So, make a difference today.

Remember who you are gardening for.

Wren Watch 2

by Catherine Johnson

Both parents are still alive and feeding several babies.

It was so hot yesterday that the parents moved the babies out to get cooler air and moved them back into the nest at night.

I have added a cover to keep sun off their nest and remove it at night so nothing jumps on it to crash the nest down. I will start putting out water dishes surrounding my yard for when they fledge.   

Pampered wrens!