Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Going batty about birds

Ever since Doug & I moved into this house, we've talked about installing a purple martin house in our backyard and starting a colony. Usually it's been one thing or another and we don't get a house up in enough time.

Last week we saw it -- our window of opportunity. The scouts had started to arrive. Our neighbors have a couple of martin houses and usually what happens is that one or two birds will arrive before the rest of the colony. You have to have the house up for the scouts, or the colony won't nest there that year. Martins are great because they eat all the bugs around and they have a pretty singing voice. However, sparrows and starlings have taken over all of their natural habitats (and will take over the houses too, if allowed). The martin population is only one-tenth of what it was in the 1920s and the only houses they have now are the ones provided and maintained by humans.

Doug and I spent this weekend searching for a martin house. We must have gone to a half dozen places and couldn't find any and no one knew where we could go to find one. One place told us it was too early for the houses, but we told him that we saw the scouts. We did find a few houses where we get our dog food, but the houses were plastic and didn't look durable. I looked online and found one local place, but it was way too expensive.

Last night we tried one last place -- Wild Birds Unlimited. Not only did we find a martin house we liked, the owner gave us a lot of advice.

When we were at the store, we noticed they had bat houses. Austin is big on bats, as we have the largest urban bat colony in North America. Bats are also good for insects. Doug and I had been talking about getting a bat house and I had been reading on the bat conservation site about building one, so we bought one. We are going install it on our chimney, facing the backyard. Now folks will be able to pack a picnic and come watch the bats at our house instead of heading down to the Congress Avenue bridge.

One thing is for certain, between the martins and the bats, insects won't be a problem at our house.

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