23 April 2012

New Martin House an Immediate Attraction

Within two minutes, Purple Martins used their new house that had just been erected at Levi Carter Park on Saturday April 21st, during the Earth Day weekend.

Bing Behrens of the Wild Bird Habitat Store, and myself as a tepid assistant, installed the house north of the caretaker's residence at Levi Carter Park. A fisherman stopped by to inquire about the new structure, mentioning he was glad to see this sort of thing being done in the park.

Bing pulled the rope to raise the "mini-castle" to its peak in the sky, thus establishing a new martin house at mid-day.

In the following moments, filled with sublime excitement for the birds and two watchers, martins flew nearby to take a closer look, with others immediately following to get their own view. The first pioneer sat on a perch to get a good look at the new digs.

The same birds had been "complaining" about the temporary disturbance of the neighborhood during the installation. They were always vocal, whether in flight about the scene, or sitting outside their apartment rather than sitting in their residence.

The perspective of the martins was immediately changed.

Further watching indicated the martins were obviously appreciative of the East House. Shortly, females were attracted to what was nearly recognized as a suitable place to nest. Within a few more moments, some magnificent martins were sitting on the house-top roost, landing upon a roost outside each apartment to peer within, wondering if they should perhaps move.

A few feet away at the West House, there was uncertainty. Mother martins to be had been working hard to get their nest ready by bringing in nest material. Did they want to stay, or should they move to the new place?

The behavior of the birds was readily apparent. Ignoring any anthropomorphic fallacies, there may have even been a "husband" trying to stay put while his mate kept looking to the east. Was his preening displacement behavior?

The East House certainly had unsurpassed features. Each apartment offered more room with space between each place, and had an elevated floor for cleanliness. There was an individual perch out front for the couple's use and eventually for their brood. A common-space roost was available above the rooftop. The residence was a completely new, not a cleaned out space used by many other previous tenants.

The West House has been present for an unknown number of years. The mid-day bird drama at Levi Carter Park, was because the martins didn't get a message about a new construct.

Many others did, since this effort was successful only because of effort and focused intent.

The Audubon Society of Omaha board quickly approved purchase of the house, within a day's time.

The Omaha Parks Recreation and Public Property provided a letter of approval on Friday morning. The department is "pleased to support the efforts to enhance the habitat of" purple martins in a park, according to a letter from Patrice Slavin, issued on April 20. Randy Garlip, park caretaker, was helpful in noting that he had cleaned the West House, and also helped indicate a good spot for the Eat House, out of the way of his mowing duties.

A multi-call process to the Diggers Hotline worked -- due to expressing an emergency on Friday afternoon -- to get a clearance approval, as required by Nebraska legal statutes, to break the surface of the ground. Approval is required even to plant a flower or tree, till a garden, stick a flag into the ground, break the ground surface which the kick of a heel, etc.

Focused discussions with Omaha Parks officials brought this topic into an awareness of complete amazement. The "drama-queen" at the hotline office certainly conveyed how communication to a city might end if the proper procedure was not followed. Such things happened "every day" according to her perspective. To ensure satisfaction across the board, the "registration" call was made about mid-afternoon on a Friday. Several call-back responses were received by 5 p.m., with the last one of the day associated with an onsite inspection by a utility inspection firm. A last reply was received just after 8 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Hours later, the installation was underway.

This martin house was needed due to an obvious bird activity first observed on Wednesday, April 18 when there were more martins than what the house could suitably provide. The birds were limited as vividly expressed in their behavior, and apparent in a single photograph where a female bird was looking for a place while sitting on the rooftop. She was not able to personally inspect the housing cube.

On Saturday morning, one female was attacked and held down by a male being protective an adjacent apartment. Two males were seen and heard tussling over one particular apartment, until one fleed, after some moments of anxiety, obvious in its open-beak behavior, as it looked back at its tormentor.

The new martin castle was up and ready for residency on mid-day Saturday. The endeavor was successful because of a common interest. Everyone involved deserves credit for their interest in helping to benefit Purple Martins, an iconic bird in the river city.

It was certainly a fine time for martins at Carter Lake! We can enjoy the results at the Martin Mecca Midtown later in the season.

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