Well, it's been a a few days since I last posted. There's so much going on this time of year with the vegetable gardening, flower beds, birdwatching, etc, etc. There's just not enough time in a day. I did however want to follow up on my post from last week titled Purple Martin Update (2009). I received a few comments and questions that I didn't get around to answering in the comments so I thought I would try to touch on them here.
Part of being a responsible purple martin landlord requires frequent nest checks. My particular setup comes with a telescoping pole that allows me to bring the house down to my level to check the nest. Martins are very tolerant of people, which is good, because studies have shown that active involved landlords improve the colonies reproductive success rate. Without knowing exactly what is going on in each nest, a landlord would have no clue if predators like snakes, owls or raccoons were eating their eggs or babies; or if nest was infected with blowflies or mites and needed to be changed out. Not finding and reacting quickly to these problems can greatly reduce the breeding success of your purple martins.
Non-native birds like house sparrows and European starlings can be big problems for purple martins as well. These birds are aggressive and will quickly take over a martin house if nothing is done to stop them. If starlings are a problem in your area then use martin houses with starling resistant entrances holes (SREH). These half circle shaped holes are big enough for purple martins but too small for starlings to fit into. I use SREHs on my purple martin house and gourds and haven't had any problems with starlings. House sparrows can be a bit tougher to control. I'll save that topic for another post, but if your interested in learning more about controlling house sparrows then check out this article: http://www.sialis.org/hosp.htm
For more information on the advantages of doing nest checks and how to conduct them read the article "Why Landlords Should Conduct Weekly Nest Checks" written by James R. Hill III, Purple Martin Conservation Association.