Considering becoming landlords in SW Michigan

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AngieA_SWMichigan
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Oct 05, 2020 8:20 am
Location: Southwest Michigan
Martin Colony History: As of 10/2020, considering becoming landlords

Hello,

This is my first post on the forum. What an amazing thing you are all doing/have done for these awesome birds. After reading some of the past conversations, I am in awe of you.

I am a new resident of Southwest Michigan and believe we have a great spot for housing Martins. We are walking into this decision cautiously because we know this is a long term commitment and we won't do it if we can't do it right, which is why I'm seeking more information.

1. Are there any current landlords in the SW Michigan area (South Haven, Fennville, Saugatuck...)?
2. Is there a way to know if there are Martins in our area now (meaning, should we try to learn this before we invest in and put up housing)?
3. After initial investment of housing/poles/misc supplies, can anyone provide averages on time spent maintaining housing weekly as well as a financial investment seasonally?
4. If anyone is in the area and interested in selling used equipment, we'd be interested in speaking with you.

Thank you!
Angie
Dave Duit
Posts: 1756
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.

Hi Angie,
Welcome to the world of purple martins. I'm from central Iowa and have been a long time purple martin landlord. I'm sure there a few scatters purple martin landlords in your area.
1.) I overlayed the google map with that of submitted scout reports of martins near your area and found the following landlords: Dowagiac - landlord (member-Holiday Stay), Hamilton - landlord (Jill Chambers), Richland - landlord ( Gary Mittelbach), Richland - landlord (Laurie Hanson), Vicksburg - landlord (Penny Briscoe), Holland - landlord (Bird Dog), Portage - landlord name not listed. These are only the reported landlords on the PMCA website, but that doesn't mean they are the only martin people in your area, as many may be unlisted in the research scout report area of the website.
Your closest mentor in your area is Penny Brisco from Vicksburg. Here is her latest contact information: MENTOR PARTICIPANTS - VICKSBURG, MI
Penny Briscoe, Posted: January 2017
Our colony has been active for 31 years. I have been presenting purple martin educational programs around the state since 2010 and welcome phone calls and often make "house calls."
The easiets way to contact Penny is to go to the purplemartin.org website and then click on the education icon near the top of the page, then pull down to Mentor Program, then scroll down the page to the map of the US and zoom into your area and then click on the purple dot just under the town of Portage. You will then see Penny's information and also be able to click on the email to contact her.
2.) Regardless if there are martins in your immediate area, you should still invest and put up martin housing. Martin will eventually find your location regardless of the closets martins to your area. It may take longer, but like they say, build it and they will come. It can take a few years before a beginniing landlord gets their first nesting pair, which would be a young first year pair from a colony around your area the previous year. It took me 6 years before I got my first nesting apir, but today I have 60 pair and over 300 babies. Other landlords get martin the first year they put up housing, the key is to have patience. You will be in it for life once started, and a few years is only a small part of the big picture.
3.) Each landlord spends a different average amount due to the fact that each person's willingness to spend. You can keep costs low by starting out small, maybe a 6 gourd rack system or two metal houses. If u]you know someone that is a welder, they can weld up a great gourd rack for you. Please be sure to read up on as much as possible about housing size and location requirements. cavity size needs to be at lesat 6'' x 6'' x 12 ''. If you purchase a metal house it will probably need to be modified to make the compartments deeper than the 6 inches. Now days, landlords are opting more toward gourds. I use Troyer horizontal gourds with tunnels and conley 2 entrances. I suggest not to go crazy and over the top when starting out. You can always add to the housing as tome goes by. Basically, don't go out and buy 60 gourds right away. 6 gourds is a good starting point. I started out my first year spending about $300. Now I'm over $3,500. But, it completely up to the landlord at how big they want their colony.
4.) I think the used equiptment and refurbishing is a great way to go. Your best bet at getting an old set up and refixing repairs is to contact Penny Brisco as mentioned in number 1 above.
If you wish to look at any additional information outside the PMCA website, you are welcome to visit my organizations website here in Iowa at www.iamartin.org
I hope all this info was helpful.
Dave Duit
email: dave@iamartin.org
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
flyin-lowe
Posts: 2936
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

I have family in Holland that we visit each year. There are definitely martins in your area and that part of the state. So you can check that off your list. Now it is more important to focus on your actual yard/property itself. If you have a large yard that it wide open and no trees nearby then you can put the housing up about anywhere, I would go with a spot that you can see if from your favorite chair, or porch, or wherever you would spend time watching from. It would help if you would post a screen shot from google earth that shows an overhead view of your yard and surrounding property, that will let us help you pick a good spot.

Once I get my housing up in the spring the most time that I devote to my martins probably revolves around keeping sparrows at bay, especially at a new colony. I am fortunate and live in an area that allows me to shoot, so that is my first choice, and trapping is second. If you live in town and aren't able to shoot a gun, then you will have to rely on trapping. You won't realize how many sparrows are in your area until you trap a hundred of them and new ones keep filling in. They have a relatively small home range so you can reduce the population but it takes a couple seasons. First year I was at my old place I killed over 100 the first couple years, then around 30-50, and after a couple years I would only get 5-10. If you are not willing to get rid of these birds you will not have a thriving colony. I rely on starling resistance entry holes (SREH) to keep the starlings at bay. I would not put up housing without those entrances in this part of the country.

Once the martins come back each year and settle in I lower the housing every Friday and inspect each cavity. This year with my larger colony it takes over an hour but once you are up and running you can spend as much time as you want but you can also monitor it every week and if troubles arise you can work on them from there.

If I were starting a new colony or was helping someone start a new colony I would go with a AAA gourd rack and Troyer gourds. I have one of those racks I have had for close to 10 years and it still is great, and fills up every year. The AAA rack is middle of the rode price wise but it is of good quality. Everyone has their own preferences on gourd racks.

If you have the means to build and fabricate you can go cheaper. I have built 2 T 14's and both of them are on 3 1/2 inch pipes I obtained from a scrap yard and turned them into martin poles. Definitely a cost saver but not everyone has the means to do that. It is a good time of year to start planning as you have 6-8 months before martins would start arriving in your area.
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.
AngieA_SWMichigan
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Oct 05, 2020 8:20 am
Location: Southwest Michigan
Martin Colony History: As of 10/2020, considering becoming landlords

Thanks Dave and flyin-lowe for your thorough responses. Wow, you gave us a lot to consider; the good, bad, and ugly and we appreciate that very much.

Dave just have to say we LOVE Iowa. I have ridden RAGBRAI 7x and think the ride and the people are the best.

We do need some time to process all this information so we can make a sound decision. We won't walk into this lightly and if we do it we'll be all in.

Per your request, here is a drone shot of our property. I had been thinking we could put houses up on either side of the house, but based on your comments I'm rethinking my initial plan. The left side makes sense because we can watch from our kitchen table. The right side of the house would be the best choice for them because they could fly and scoop up all the insects they can eat without any obstacles.
IMG_3975.jpeg
(436.09 KiB) Not downloaded yet
Thanks again to you both,
Angie
Dave Duit
Posts: 1756
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 are very welcome,
I'm glad you found the website , as there are some very knowledgable landlords that visit the site regularly. Glad to hear that you love the state of Iowa. The RAGBRIA is a hoot and so fun. I have been on it three times, the first time I only made it three days as I was sorely unprepared. Hopefully you experienced the "Pork Chop" guy selling pork chops on the route every year.
On to martin stuff now. I'm glad to hear you are taking the martining hobby seriously and becoming more prepared before jumping in. Some people just assume they can slap up any old house and never manage it during the season and expect martins to return every year. Since you are a responsible and conscoius person, I strongly encourage you to become a landlord. But, if you don't, I can understand your decision.
I love the drone shot of your house and land. It gave me a super idea for things to consider. The most open area without tall trees is ideal for housing location. Martins try to stay clear of trees close by because they harbor their predators such as owls, copper and sharp shinned hawks from the air. They also like a ground below their housing to be free of tall grass or bushes and flowers as they can hide snakes and cats. On a side note, never use guy wires from the ground to the pole since it is a highway for ground predaotrs to reach their compartments or gourds. If I were standing outside on the road looking at your house, I would suggest placing the housing on the large open grassy area to the right. I don't want to scare you away from putting up housing, but if you do you will most likely need to include owl guards or owl fencing around your gourd rack or metal houses. The vast amount of trees behind your house probably carries owls and some hawks. As long as the guards are installed, your martins will manage fine. You can google image search purple martin owl cage to see and the first pic on the second row is a great example. I would like to hear from you in the future on your decisions, no pressure if you decide not to pursue the hobby. Best of luck my friend.
Dave
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
AngieA_SWMichigan
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Oct 05, 2020 8:20 am
Location: Southwest Michigan
Martin Colony History: As of 10/2020, considering becoming landlords

Dave,

Thank you! I thought the land would be great for martins, too! Was out mowing the lawn this Summer when a huge flock of birds were swooping around eating the bugs that I'm guessing I disturbed when mowing. I stopped to watch and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thought they were martins but now I'm not sure. They had that snake tongue shaped tail feather and looked black. At any rate, that's when I first had the idea. I was sure they'd love it here.

We've been watching lots of youtube videos with tips, stories, warnings about starlings and other predators. I finally understand the need to address the invasive birds as flyin-low suggested. That's what I believe is our last hurdle. While I do very much now understand the need to eliminate the starlings and others, I just know it's not in me to do that. My last idea is to see if someone in our area would be willing to handle it for us. We would, of course, purchase and install the proper hole modifiers, guards for the larger birds; and the whatchamacallits for keeping the land predators down.

Who hasn't experienced the pork chop man??? Pooooorrrrrkchoooopssss!
It's the only place you can ride ~500 miles and still gain weight (darned pies!!).

Again, I thank you for the most valuable advice.

Oh, and please elaborate on the new things you are considering.. Curious to hear.

Best,
Angie
flyin-lowe
Posts: 2936
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:49 am
Location: Indiana/Henry Co.

Martins will follow the mower some but more often than not it is barn swallows. If you saw the distinctive fork shaped tail I would say you saw barn swallows not martins.
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.
AngieA_SWMichigan
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Oct 05, 2020 8:20 am
Location: Southwest Michigan
Martin Colony History: As of 10/2020, considering becoming landlords

Thanks for confirming. From what I read, barn swallows are not in competition with martins. Is that correct?
Dave Duit
Posts: 1756
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.

Hi Angie,
The Starling Resistant Entry Holes (SREH) will virtually stop any starling from getting inside the martin house or gourds. After they realize they can't get in, they usually just give up and move on. The mower birds are most likely barn swallow as mentioned by flyin-lowe. I don't know if it would make any difference about how you feel toward sparrows, but their lifespan is only 1 and a 1/4 years. We basically rid the area of sparrows around martin colonies due to the fact that they peck holes in the martin eggs and will peck at the adult martins inside the cavity until they are dead. They are aggressive birds and the martins really can't fight back too much because they have a soft beak and it is difficult for them to defend themselves. I completely understand that it is hard for some people to get rid of sparrows.
Mite control, heat venting, predator protection and additional feeding during bad weather add up to success.
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