Accck!!! (Charlie Brown shriek of agony) I have narrowly avoided a tragedy with my Purple Martins, but am not sure how this story will end. This morning, as I was getting ready for work, I was watching the martin colony from my bathroom window (my best bird-watching window.) I noticed the couple who occupy Gourd #13 were acting agitated, fluttering around the entry hole, perching on the arm of the gourd rack just above their home, and then fluttering around again. Just then, I spied a male and female House Sparrow. They were bringing nesting material into Gourd #13, a gourd which not 3 days ago held a martin nest. The martins tried to repel the invaders, but it looked like they were fighting a losing battle.
I gathered up my martin gear and stomped out to find out what the hell was going on. As I walked under the gourd rack, most of the birds flew off, and when I lowered the rack, those still in their beds left as well.
All except Gourd #13, which was rocking violently. As it came down to my head level, I could hear rustling and flapping sounds from within the gourd. I froze for a moment, and couldn't decide what to do. As I started to remove the cap from the 4" diameter access hole, a HOSP flew out of the entry hole. I peeked inside and saw a dark body lying still in the back of the gourd.
I swallowed hard, took the gourd down, and turned it in my hand, trying to get enough light inside to inspect the damage. I was sure I was going to find a dead martin, or worse, a severely injured one. Just as I was trying to get up the courage to put my hand inside, the bird turned his head and looked at me with one clear, bright eye. It was an ASY male Purple Martin. He seemed comfortable in my presence, not distressed or anxious at all.
"Are you OK?" I asked softly. He thought about it for a second, then flew off through the entry hole, seemingly uninjured.
That damned House Sparrow had him trapped in his own home, and would have killed him without my intervention. I was sick over it. Anybody who still disagrees with my choice to trap and remove HOSP should have been there today. And, it's not like the HOSP needed that spot - there are at least 4 or 5 other empty nesting sites they could have chosen to use.
In retrospect, I should have plugged up the entry hole immediately, taken the gourd off the rack and opened it up inside a large, clear plastic bag. Then, I could have sorted out wanted from unwanted birds and done in the criminal. Now, I don't know what to do. The HOSP won't be deterred in their attempt to usurp #13 by this incident. The martins who live there are still at risk, as are the other 11+ active nests in the colony. The Tree Swallows are on eggs, the bluebirds' second clutch has just gotten started - all these families are in danger.
I left #13 plugged till I can get back and sort everything out on Thursday. There were no martin eggs, so they don't have to get in right away, and maybe I can divert the HOSP to another (empty) spot, where I will have a better chance at trapping them.
Wish us all luck! Updates later...
Edit: Checked my records - this gourd held 4 eggs on Sunday. No sign of them today. Damn! I haven't seen the HOSP on my place, but heard the nasty "cheep, cheep" of a male HOSP at my neighbor's house this afternoon. Stay there, you little creep.
In other boxes/gourds, the Tree Swallow 5 are fine and the second bluebird egg was laid today. That box has a sparrow spooker on it. One martin gourd with 5 eggs (safe), one with two new eggs, the rest are still just nests. Don't know if Mr & Mrs 13 will try to re-nest or not. It is early, they would have time if they care to try.