Advice for 2021 improvements?

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susanw77
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:39 am
Location: Radford, VA
Martin Colony History: Lucky to have inherited an established colony in a lakefront Heath house, 18 units. 2020 was my first full season, mostly observing. Still learning how to be a responsible landlord.

Thanks to everyone who helped me get started for the 2020 Martin season. I did not realize the awesome responsibility that came with the martin house. I’ve struggled some, but it seems to be working out. The martins were late arriving this year, which caused me a little panic. But they seem well-established and very happy now. I have at least 4 nesting pair, and likely more. I watch them through a birding scope several times throughout the day.

I would be so grateful for advice on three things as I decided what to do for 2021 —

If I had house sparrows, would I be seeing them at my birdfeeder? I keep the feeder in front of the kitchen window, about 250 yards from the martin house, way on the opposite side of my 3-story residence. We do see a lot of woodpeckers, titmice, wrens and chickadees eating. We also have bluebirds and cardinals. But nothing that looks remotely like a sparrow — that I have SEEN. Would I have seen them by now?

The old Heath house has small pie-shaped compartments and round entrances. I am terrified of managing wing entrapment. (Too many Hitchcock movies in my childhood.) So far, I have seen no predators trouble the martins. I have heard no alerts, kerfluffles, nor seen any signs of attack on the ground. I did rig up a snake guard after I saw a couple of blacksnakes hanging around my garage. Part of me says if the house is working, leave well enough alone. The martins have been happy in it for eons. But I see that most people here recommend the SR half-moon holes and deeper compartments.

The Heath house on a secure but corroded pole that will no longer telescope. It is at least 15 years old according to the fellow who sold me the property last year. I can get a new Heath pole like the one I have now which would almost certainly fit the old house. However, I would like a winch system. I have not been able to find a winch system made for this house. Are these poles universal? Mine is round, and goes up inside the house. Some winch poles look square.

This year, having settled in, I can afford to fully upgrade everything if I can hire help to install. But maybe I should leave well enough alone? Other than to get a better, preferably winching pole for nest checking? Thanks in advance for any thoughts.
flyin-lowe
Posts: 2962
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

Most will tell you that Heath houses are less then ideal unless modifications are made. That's going to be up to you. The problem with a majority of the predator attacks is that there are no signs. Everything will be going fine one day and the next day a snake has wiped out a colony. Most housing systems have their own pole so I am not sure how easy (if even possible) it would be to make a Heath house raise and lower. If it was me I would be shopping for a different housing system that has SREH, has large compartments than the Heath house, and can go up and down for nest checks. But I know everyone has different budgets.
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.
susanw77
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:39 am
Location: Radford, VA
Martin Colony History: Lucky to have inherited an established colony in a lakefront Heath house, 18 units. 2020 was my first full season, mostly observing. Still learning how to be a responsible landlord.

Thanks for your candid view. I can afford to fully upgrade.
Ed Svetich-WI
Posts: 798
Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2004 10:05 pm
Location: Brooks, Wi (McGinnis Lake)
Martin Colony History: 24 Super and Excluder Gourds on two gourd racks, all SREH. Full occupancy. My philosophy is to maximize fledge % with existing cavities rather than adding gourds to grow colony, thus providing opportunities for new colony expansion. Fledge over 100 nestlings yearly from 24 gourds. Band nestlings in cooperation with state university. 2019 Adendum: Reduced colony size to 12 gourds to focus on more intensive management regimen.

I concur with the previous advice. A housing upgrade is needed. Check out the many options available on the PMCA shop. Individual gourds or multifamily housing of quality will be less expensive in the long run. Explore your area for existing martin colonies to see what appeals to you. Keep in mind what amount of time you can spend on managing a colony and don't go overboard on the number of compartments, whether gourds or housing. You can always expand later if that is your desire.

I'm a bit envious that you inherited an active martin colony.

Good luck

Ed
susanw77
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:39 am
Location: Radford, VA
Martin Colony History: Lucky to have inherited an established colony in a lakefront Heath house, 18 units. 2020 was my first full season, mostly observing. Still learning how to be a responsible landlord.

Thanks, Ed. I have to say, I have found it a daunting responsibility. I knew nothing of martins when I bought the house. But having learned what they are, I feel a moral obligation to look after them. The previous owners just stuck the house up and left it unattended for 20 years. My next door neighbors have THREE houses and confess they have have never taken them down or cleaned them. One of them looks like a Coates original, so it had to have been expensive.

I counted 14 martins this morning. Such happy, cheerful things. Thanks, all.
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