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.

Mike McCormick Explains Purple Martins

by Carolyn Henderson

Mike McCormick, considered the largest houser of Purple Martins in the area, shared his wealth of knowledge with the El Camino Real chapter of Texas Master Naturalist on Saturday, June 18. McCormick lives south of Buckholts in Milam County with thousands of Purple Martins and a few family members. He has been housing the birds for more than 40 years and has grown the number of seasonal residents steadily every year.

Purple martin house with adults waiting for fledglings to fly

There are approximately 65 Purple Martin houses at his place – all made by him. He’s also helped many others get started with some extra houses. 

Up close of the three fledglings that haven’t decided to fly, yet.

ECRTMN visited at the optimum time. All the babies are starting to fledge. Members learned how to house them and keep them coming back. McCormick also clarified some untrue facts about the migrating birds. For example, a 6-foot-tall martin house works as well as a 12-foot-tall house.

Martins in flight

Thanks also go to Donna Lewis, organizer of the event, and Ms. McCormick, sister to Mike, who fed us and kept the cattle herded.

Hot Weather

by Donna Lewis

I think everyone can agree it’s hot!  It’s looking like this is the new norm and will get hotter in the years to come.

We humans can go inside and enjoy a nice glass of iced tea or whatever.

But what about everything that lives outside?  Yes, they were born outside, but not in this kind of weather. So, can we help them a little without taming them?

I think so.

I just put up some heat shields on my Purple Martin Gourds. I could feel the difference it made on my face as I installed them.  Just a little help.

Cooler birds

I make sure that the many water stations I have for the birds are filled several times a day. The bees are also drinking from them. Water is so important for everything right now.

So do just a little for the wildlife we love.

Happy Trails!

Purple Martins Are Still Arriving in Milam County

by Donna Lewis

This morning (March 20) I heard a lot more singing going on outside. I was delighted to count 14 Martins on my Gourd rack.  YEAH!!

Sadly, my Apartment Rack in the front of our house still has no Martins for three years now.

We had a very large Rat Snake climb over the baffle and get all the babies. I was very upset about it. Since then, I use the netting system to prevent any snake from getting to the birds. The bad thing is that it will kill the snake either on its own or you have to do it, so it does not suffer. I hate doing it, but it is the only thing that keeps the gourd rack safe from the snakes here. All life is important to me.  But it’s twenty babies or one snake.

I cannot understand why I still do not have Martins in the apartment now. I have cleaned it several times, added new bedding, everything I can think of. Prior to the snake, it was occupied every year. It has twenty-six apartments.  A mystery.

But we have 14 Martins to look at and listen to their beautiful songs. I am hoping more will arrive.

Come on in…free room and board.