For the first morning since I don't know when, I didn't have to be up and out of the house by 7am. I had a grand old time puttering around outside in my "comfy clothes," feeding and watering my horses, sitting in the grass with my dogs, and checking on my birds.
Purple Martins are back in force. I counted at least 19 individuals today, squabbling over the 12 gourds I have up. If I had an equal mix of girls and boys, there would be plenty of space, but I fear that there are more males, so there are plenty of territorial deputes, which makes for an enjoyable show. There are four more compartments available in the aluminum house next door, but everybody wants a big gourd. I do have space for four more gourds on this rack, and 8 natural gourds waiting modification. I guess when I get back from Magee Marsh I will have to put down the pottery projects long enough to finish four of them. The SY (Second Year, or juvenile) martins aren't even back yet. Sheesh! I guess the saying is true: "If you build it, they will come." After so many years of struggling to get martins, now I have too many.
The Tree Swallows are finally settling in. Tree Swallows were the bane of my existence when I began martineering. They come back before the juvenile Purple Martins (which are what you need to start a new colony) and they compete with them for housing. One pair of TS is more than a match for an inexperienced juvenile PM, who lacks the confidence to stand up for himself. Time and time again, I would watch an SY male martin try to claim a gourd, only to be run off by a tough Tree Swallow. I love these bad children, but they drove me crazy for years.
This year for the first time, I had a returning colony. The adult martins were back before the swallows, and did those little guys get a shock! After they recovered from having their tails kicked when they tried to move into martin territory, they decided they wanted the bluebird box, despite the fact that I had provided a gourd in their traditional location. Although the bluebird clutch had just fledged, I know that the BB will be back later for another nesting attempt, so I plugged up the entry hole to the nest box to protect it from TS invasion. Stymied, the TS pair sat on the feeder between my BB box and my trap box, debating the issue. Today, I find the nest in --- the trap box. Sigh. Trouble-makers!
Sometimes the beginning of a Tree Swallow nest can be misleading. The neat cup of dried grass can look a lot like an Eastern Bluebird nest. The addition of feathers makes you suspect it might be a HOSP, except it's not as messy. The best way to tell for sure is to sit back and watch. Sure enough, I saw Mrs. TS picking up dried grass from the yard and taking it into the box while Mr. perched on the feeder box, supervising.
I am off for the big birding weekend at Magee Marsh, and hope to return home with plenty of tales and lots of photos to make you all extremely jealous. As well as birding the Magee Marsh boardwalk, I also plan to take the driving tour of Ottawa NWR, to see the bird banding demonstration at Black Swamp Bird Observatory, to cruise the country roads searching the fields for shorebirds (most of which will probably remain unidentified) and to visit the many other demonstrations and exhibits.
I also hope to see lots and lots of birders, including the famous ones, like Kenn and Kim Kaufman, Hugh and Judy Kolo-Rose [famous among OOS members], and Susan Williams [famous among the blog-grrls] and the not-so-famous thousands who will be there.
Even if you can't hit a birding hot spot this weekend, do yourself a favor and spend some time bird watching on International Migratory Bird Day.