Help! Help! Babies gone. Just one left.

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Diane Porter
Posts: 213
Joined: Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:30 am
Location: Iowa

How horrified I was when I opened the one gourd containing a nest and found only ONE baby! Two days ago there were four. The gourds have Conley II tunnel entrances. I have a 3-foot-cylindar predator guard, and I've wadded bird netting inside of it and all around it. I don't see how a snake could have gotten through. There is no sign of struggle, but there is only one baby now. Four days old I think.

The mother is still going in and out, but if something gets this baby tonight I know my colony is done for. I have waited seven years for this nesting. I am distraught.

Can someone please tell me what may have happened and if there is any way to save that last nestling.

Please.

I desperately hope this will not be the last time I see this baby.
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Diane Porter
Fairfield, Iowa
dsonyay
Posts: 1196
Joined: Fri Jul 02, 2010 3:10 pm
Location: Louisiana/Broussard
Martin Colony History: 2010-2014 located in Slidell LA. Gourd rack with 16 gourds. Max of 2 pairs during this short period in Slidell. Plenty of fledglings.

2014-present.. moved to Broussard LA. Same Gourd Rack but added a 6 room house (modified from a 12 room)

2020: after a long drought of nothing, 4 pairs and 4 nests, 23 eggs total (May2020)

Be on the lookoit for an SY male. They have been know to drag babies out (I've experienced it muself) and dump them nearby to try and break up a pair.

Another possibility is the others died and the mama pulled them out??
Dave Duit
Posts: 1819
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: Iowa / Nevada
Martin Colony History: In 2020, 60 pair with 285 fledged youngsters. 83 total cavities available, 58 Troyer Horizontal gourds and 4 modified deep trio metal house units, 1 fallout shelter, owl cages around all units. Martin educator and speaker. President and founder of the Iowa Purple Martin Organization. Please visit www.iamartin.org and join.

i Diane,
dsonyay is right on the two possibilities. Sadly, this occurs occasionally and is a cruel aspect of nature. I wish I could give you more good news. Don't let this discourage you in the years ahead.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
Diane Porter
Posts: 213
Joined: Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:30 am
Location: Iowa

Dave Duit wrote:
Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:15 pm
i Diane,
dsonyay is right on the two possibilities. Sadly, this occurs occasionally and is a cruel aspect of nature. I wish I could give you more good news. Don't let this discourage you in the years ahead.
Thanks Dave Duit. From what I've been reading, nest failure means the birds are likely not to return to that site. And since this was the only viable nest, it looks like we'll be out of the landlord business again. We've gotten martins twice. The first time we waited seven years for our first pair and then lost the small colony after the second year due to a catastrophic weather event. We waited another seven years for this pair. If a SY male is doing it, I don't see how this last chick can survive.

And I really don't know how not to be discouraged. But I appreciate your compassion.
Diane Porter
Fairfield, Iowa
Dave Duit
Posts: 1819
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2003 2:02 pm
Location: Iowa / Nevada
Martin Colony History: In 2020, 60 pair with 285 fledged youngsters. 83 total cavities available, 58 Troyer Horizontal gourds and 4 modified deep trio metal house units, 1 fallout shelter, owl cages around all units. Martin educator and speaker. President and founder of the Iowa Purple Martin Organization. Please visit www.iamartin.org and join.

You have had a rough road in the journey to try to establish a colony. It may be very difficult to watch that gourd all day long to try to keep out the SY male.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
flyin-lowe
Posts: 2964
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

Nest failure, depending on the cause does not always mean abandonment. If the parents are continuing to feed that is a good sign. I too suspect SY as the culprit. If it was a snake it would not have left that baby behind. I don't recall seeing what type of gourd the nest was in? Usually the Troyer's are deep enough to keep an owl or crow from being able to reach in far enough to grab nestlings at that age but I am sure it has happened depending on how the nest is constructed and how far back in the gourd they are. Usually if it is SY's you will find the nestlings on the ground but if you didn't noticed it for a couple days other scavengers would have had time to get them.
2020 Currently 42 nest, 110 babies, 64 eggs left to hatch(6-22-20) HOSP count-8
2019- 31 Pair over 100 fledged
2018- 15 pair last count 49 fledged
2017 3 SY pair nested, 12 eggs total, fledged 10. 4 additional SY's stayed all summer but never paired/nested.
2016 1 pair fledged 4
2015 Visitors
2014 Visitors
2013 Moved 6 miles away, 1 pair fledged 2.
2012 30 pair fledged 100.
2011 12 pair (11 that nested), 43 fledged.
2010 5 pair, 21 eggs, 16 hatched, 14 fledged.
Diane Porter
Posts: 213
Joined: Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:30 am
Location: Iowa

flyin-lowe wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 7:10 am
Nest failure, depending on the cause does not always mean abandonment. If the parents are continuing to feed that is a good sign. I too suspect SY as the culprit. If it was a snake it would not have left that baby behind. I don't recall seeing what type of gourd the nest was in? Usually the Troyer's are deep enough to keep an owl or crow from being able to reach in far enough to grab nestlings at that age but I am sure it has happened depending on how the nest is constructed and how far back in the gourd they are. Usually if it is SY's you will find the nestlings on the ground but if you didn't noticed it for a couple days other scavengers would have had time to get them.
Thanks, flyin-lowe, for the perspective. If the babies had been left on the ground I think I would have seen them, but there is some taller grass on one side about 10 feet away from the perimeter of the rack's footprint, so they could have been lost in there. I saw 4 babies one day and 3 the next. I thought I'd perhaps missed the 4th one, because the mother stayed in the gourd even when I nudged her, and I'm new enough at this that I didn't have the nerve to shove her out of the way. I wish I had of. Because the following day, which was yesterday, there was only the one. The parents were right there, watching me without fear and eagerly going in and out again afterwards as if they had a big family to feed.

So if it was a snake, it took one baby one night and then two the next. And you don't think that would have happened. So that leaves natural death with removal by a parent, or attack by a SY male. Made me very sorrowful, but I guess if I like PMs I have to accept that as part of the package.

I'm kind of afraid to look this morning to see if that last baby is still there, but that's what I'm going to go do now. If the baby is gone (oh God), then I'll search that grass for the evidence.

The gourds are Troyer Verticals with porches and the Conley II entrance with the tunnel and little traction ramp inside. They are really spacious and seem quite inaccessible. Honestly I don't see how even the PMs get in and out. The nest is a hollow in the very back of the gourd. It is hard to imagine how an owl could have reached that far back, going in through that narrow opening, but I guess that is possible.

If no young fledge this year, do you think the parents might possibly come back to the scene of the crime and try again here next year?
Diane Porter
Fairfield, Iowa
Whippy
Posts: 623
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:15 pm
Location: Plano, Texas
Martin Colony History: See Signature

Diane,

I would rule out a snake being the culprit. If a snake goes into that gourd to eat, it will not leave until it eats everything in there. Snakes don't really eat one thing and know to leave and come back for more later. They are all or none eaters. However, if the snake was small enough to be chased out of the gourd by the parents it's possible it could return. But I seriously believe that, if a snake was in that gourd, you would have heard the commotion a long time ago. To give you an idea of the ruckus, I had a grasshopper land on the entrance of one of my gourds. You would have thought a 10 foot python was in there the way all the martins were carrying on. It was crazy. I heard the noise and ran out thinking the worse. I was very relieved to see that grasshopper clinging to the entrance of the gourd. I lowered the gourds and took him off and now all my Martins view me as the hero. :lol:

An SY male, or a sparrow, or starling, would be more opportunistic and go in when the parents are out gathering food for the babies.

I sincerely hope all is well with the last baby.

Coolwhips
2016 - late to put up, many visitors
2017 - 1 pair, 3 fledged
2018- 2 pair, 12 fledged
2019 - 4 pair, 21 fledged
2020 - 15 pair, 67 fledged
Diane Porter
Posts: 213
Joined: Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:30 am
Location: Iowa

I was afraid to look this morning, but the babe was still there. It seemed like the parents were guarding it closely. I saw the female arrive at the entrance and wait until the male emerged and flew off, and then she went in immediately.

I checked again in the late afternoon. A parent was in there while I was lowering the gourds but flew out, and I didn't get to see which one it was, but I knew that meant the baby was OK. I checked anyway, and it seemed fine. I think it had grown since morning. I just pray that the parents can keep on guarding that baby.

Is there an age at which it will be safe from the juvenile delinquent SY male?

Great thanks to all who have encouraged and comforted and advised me through the last scary day.
Diane Porter
Fairfield, Iowa
brent
Posts: 210
Joined: Sat Feb 10, 2018 2:43 pm
Location: Raceland, Louisiana

Interesting post. I had a SY male enter a nest this year and 4 of 6 chicks were found dead. I was so up set. I removed the dead chicks from the nest and porch. The parents continued to care for the remaining 2 who fledged about a week or so ago. The reason I know it was a SY male that did it is because I witnessed him going from one nest compartment to another, like he was being nosey. Shortly after I notice a just hatched nestling on the porch of another compartment. Immediately I lowered the house and got it right back in the nest. It survived and fledged, too. Martin behavior is interesting. If I weren't retired and able to observe I would not have known what happened. I think that little chick will survive. Keep us posted.
Diane Porter
Posts: 213
Joined: Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:30 am
Location: Iowa

brent wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 8:08 pm
I think that little chick will survive.
Thank you Brent. For your lips to God's ears!
Diane Porter
Fairfield, Iowa
4th Gen Martin Fan
Posts: 1487
Joined: Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:19 pm
Location: TN/Collierville
Martin Colony History: I have been exposed to purple martin sounds in utero when my mother went out to get my father away from his martin colony.
I played around the martin colony every summer and watched as my father maintained his colony. In the late 50's until the 70's he did not notice European Starlings in south Texas.
When old enough, I helped maintain his colony. My primary task was eliminating English House Sparrows with a 1956 Benjamin 317 .177 air rifle.
When I settled into my own home, I started my first colony with an original Trio Castle and Trio Grandpa. When I moved again, I did not put up any martin houses. Frustration with European Starlings in the Southeast US was overwhelming.
Found PMCA Forum and learned about modern enlarged compartments and SREHs.
Inherited my father's last martin house, a Trio Grandma, modified it to modern specifications and have had good results since then.

Diane,
I agree that SY male is likely the culprit of your losses.
As a side note, I am confused by your pole predator guard setup. A pole predator guard is supposed to swing freely to discourage climbing mammals; such as squirrels, raccoons, etc.
Snakes generally can be discouraged by a pole predator guard by that same tipsy, unsteady swinging. But if there is any means for the snake to cling to the guard, then they can circumvent the guard.
When you describe stuffing the pole guard with bird netting, does that stop the guard from swinging freely like it should?
When you describe surrounding the pole guard with bird netting, does that also steady the guard and allow a climbing mammal to scale the outside netting like cargo netting?
Generally bird netting is attached to the pole below or above the pole predator guard. The bird netting is meant to entangle the snake as it tries to slither through the loops of bird netting. It gets impossibly stuck in the bird netting and either has to be cut out and relocated or it dies in the entangled netting.
I am not implying that your losses were anything but SY male. I am trying to make your pole predator guard effective against climbing mammals and explain how to set up the bird netting to ensnare snakes.
Finally snakes can even circumvent pole predator guards and bird netting. That is why some individuals have electric pole predator guards.
Mark.
Firm believer in HOSP/EUST Control, Enlarged Compartments, SREHs, Pole Predator Guards, Owl/Hawk Guards, Mite/Parasite Control, Housing Insulation, and Vents for Compartment Cooling.
PMCA Member.
Diane Porter
Posts: 213
Joined: Thu Jun 07, 2007 7:30 am
Location: Iowa

4th Gen Martin Fan wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 9:32 am
I am trying to make your pole predator guard effective against climbing mammals and explain how to set up the bird netting to ensnare snakes.
Thank you 4th Gen! I see your point. I have removed the netting from inside the baffle, so that it again swings free. I stuffed it after I thought a snake had gotten up the pole, but now I see that is a mistake. I also wadded netting around the winch in a snarly mess, and I have left that. The baffle is above the winch.

To my great relief, the last baby has survived through the last two nights. I think the parents have become very diligent in protecting it, as one or the other seems to be inside the gourd at all times now. I have hopes of this chick's eventual fledging but realize that such hope may be in vain.

I appreciate your advice. It makes so much sense!
Diane Porter
Fairfield, Iowa
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