A little about me:
My name is Chuck Abare, also known as The Chuckster in purple martin circles. I've been in purple martins since 1985 and I must say it's been one heck of a ride. In 1990, after getting a fairly good colony going, a friend suggested that I create a web page and stick it out on the Internet, (a fairly new commodity at that time), hence the reason you are here.
When I first started out, I didn't know anything about purple martins. I'd first run into them back in New York and they peaked my interest there. The house was located near a golf course putting green and many times while I was practicing my putting, I would watch the course superintendent open up that house and literally be enveloped by flying purple martins. Many times I'd stop what I was doing, lean on my putter and simply watch; amazed at what I was seeing. To my amazement, they weren't flying away as if in distress, but instead, were staying super close, as if waiting for him to finish what he was doing. This wasn't want I was used to in the natural world and that stuck in the back of my mind.
After coming south, I ran into them again, and again they peaked my interest. While driving around getting to know the area, I happened to notice how more abundant the housing for them was 'down here'. And...they weren't just houses, but gourds as well. So I talked with and listened to other folks in the area that had them, but some of the things I got told just didn't sit right with me. Yes, they had purple martins, but there was no interaction with them, at least not like I'd seen back in New York. They just put up the housing and let the birds fend for themselves. So I decided to get some books and do some reading. Then I got on the Internet and read some more and, although I didn't find much at the time, it didn't take me long to realize that there was a lot about these birds that I had to learn (as well as some of the folks that I had talked with). So I read and watched my own birds and soon, I was off and running. Little by little, I built my web page with information I gleaned from other experts (without trying to step on their toes too hard). I studied all the testing that was being done by the few organizations available at that time and of course, added what I could of it to my page. I also decided to do a little testing of my own, using my own colony as a test subject, so that I too, could understand a few of the things that were going on in my own colony and it took me awhile, but the results are what you see on my page. I tried all sorts of different things and watched what happened with my own birds and it didn't take me too long to decide what was good and what wasn't. The more I worked with my birds, the more I got to know them and the more they got to know me and although they are a wild bird, I soon realized that they weren't just any normal wild bird. These were purple martins and actually needed the interactions with humans to nest and raise their young. And as time went on the realization came to me that, without us humans, these birds would soon disappear. So I decided I'd try and do my part to see to it that, that didn't happen.
I was born and grew up in northern New York State in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains and it's probably those early years of dealing with real nature that has instilled in me this sense of understanding of our native species of birds and animals and since that time, I've always had a propensity to have space and wild life around me, and now that I'm getting on in years, I'm learning to enjoy it more and more. Our last move was to 25 acres right out in the middle of nowhere and nature is very abundant on a daily basis.
Even before we came 'South' I had always liked Bluebirds (the New York State Bird) and always had 4 or 5 houses placed out for them and now that I have the room, I have a mile and a half long trail that has 40 houses on it. They are a beautiful little bird and are a ball to have around. Their gurgling sound is a pleasure to hear when I walk outside in the mornings with my cup of coffee. It's very common to see a flash of blue whiz by around our place and they are a constant companion when cutting the grass, scoffing up any insects that the mower dislodged or on walks out in the fields.
Growing up on a dairy farm, 'Barnies', (Barn Swallows) were abundant and they were literally everywhere. Everybody that had barns had them. Many of my free hours as a youngster were spent watching these beautiful little birds and I was always amazed at their flying abilities. But after getting married and leaving the farm, they weren't around much any more and as my new wife and I moved around trying to make a go of it, we just didn't have the habitat for them to stay and I actually missed them. Although I would see them around, they just never found our front porch (as bad as I wanted them to come).
In '85 we moved to northern Alabama where I went to work for a Computer Company, (designing computers) and that very first year, I made and put up my first martin house. Unfortunately, none came and stayed. Then, later that year one of my buddies told me about gourds and how to mount them on a ' T ' pole. He said it was "how his father had done it". I was game for anything so I tried it and by golly, in the spring of '86, two pairs came and stayed and it's been nothing but enjoyment ever since. When I put that first house up in '85, I didn't know a thing about what I was getting myself in for. Now, with 124 cavities in my present colony site and 25 plus years of experience under my belt, I have a whole lot better understanding of what it takes to 'host' purple martins. Yes, I can assure you, they can become very addicting!
Throughout my years of hosting them, I ran thru the gambit of good and bad with them. Bad weather, other pest birds, ground predators, pest insects, you name it, I had to deal with it. It's 'old hat' now, but back then, I had to learn what to do about it all and what was needed to correct the situations that I ran into. More learning!
Of all the problems I've come across, probably the worst was (and still is) the English House Sparrow. This little invasive species was introduced in the US back in the 1890's and has become probably the worst problem to deal with because they are smaller than the martins and are also cavity nesters, just like the martins. I also found out that they were a problem for my BB's too, and that didn't go over very well with me at all. Many times I found sparrow nests in martin and BB houses and they needed to be removed. At first, they were just a nuisance, but after finding busted eggs or dead baby martins or bluebirds enough was enough and I decide to wage war on these vermin, also known as 'flying rats' in the birding world. No, they are not a native bird to this country and to this day, I destroy every one of them that I can get my hands on. Yes I know! Many folks look at them as 'cute' little birds that flit around the McDonald's parking lots looking for handouts, but those folks obviously aren't very educated about them (or don't care). And if they only knew what a scourge these little rats have been for the native cavity nesting birds in this country, they just might change their minds.
Although European Starlings are also a pain, at least they are big enough to be kept out of martin housing because of the new SREH entrance holes, (thanks to the early work of the late Charles McEwen from Canada) but the sparrow is actually the same size as a BB and that makes them double trouble. They can slip, not only into martin housing, but into BB housing as well, and once there, their destructive nature causes them to destroy any eggs or kill any babies they find in those cavities and then, build their nests right on top of them. You'll find a whole lot more about these two trash bird species within my pages and what to do about them.
Yep, now that I have a tractor shed, I have my Barnies back. It took a year or two for them to find me, but now that they've finally found me, I'm a happy camper.
Anyways, I hope you enjoy your travels around my site. Hopefully, there's something here that will help educate you about purple martins and what to do about the other pests and predators that you'll run into when you begin your colony. If in your travels you don't find the answer to your question, email me and I will get back to you with an answer of some kind and if I don't know the answer, I'll send you to someone that does.
Likewise, if you just want to say "Hi", then by all means, email away.