Moving into a new house Friday. The plan, such as it is, is to build the potting shed so that it will drain rain water down a corrugated metal roof, through a rain gutter, and into a horse trough. What I'd like to do is maybe plant a water lily or lotus in it, and put this poor koi who is too big for the tank anymore in there to eat the mosquito larvae which are bound to happen there. Maybe a tall rock for birds to perch on, I don't know. ANYWAY, would a metal horse trough be safe for this? Any input would be appreciated. So would any ideas. Thanks!
rate my "pond" idea, please!
Congratulations on the new digs and a potting shed! Sounds like you have a wonderful pet fish there. Koi are not indigenous to North America but I enjoyed all of mine before they became Heron kibbles and bits. I gave up on them because I couldn't stop Heron from using them as dietary supplements. I like Koi very much but the darn things require so much space to be healthy it isn't even funny. One thing I have learned is that if you have koi, you don't necessarily want to encourage some species of birds to come for a visit or you may end up losing "baby". Your set up sounds fine but you are going to have to watch out for ph crashes if you are using rain water exclusively. A good rain could really displace all balanced water in that stock tank in no time flat. That type of a set up might cause problems for your beloved koi. You might want to ask for help over in Water Gardens.
Thanks, Equi. Hadn't even thought about the ph yet, and I've been doing tanks for years. That's what I love about this website. I'll check in Water Gardens.
Ya, pH crashes are no fun for you or your pet. Neither is re-establishing the good bacteria if you have a nice downpour. Stock up on baking soda maybe? Tough call on this one. You might want to collect the rain water in a barrel and add it on an as need basis. You got me on this type of a set up. It would be really great for a pond that was exclusively plants but having a "baby" in there complicates matters. I know I'm going to sound silly but we were very attached to our fish. I did everything I could to keep the heron out and couldn't win. pH crashes were the least of my worries but they can affect the health of our fish.
You must be peeing in your pants waiting to get into your new home! Congratulations again on your move. How exciting. A whole new landscape to mold to reflect your style.
Yes, I do indeed need a constant change of underwear lately. I hate to wish my life away in any way, shape, or form, but this is the longest Wednesday ever!
I'm thinking I'll just get a bigger tank for Jimmy (the koi), and just have the trough as a rainbarrel, though I will have to do something about the larvae and I'm not into poison. I'm not sure what critters are around the new place, but it's right on the edge of the Big Thicket so there are bound to be plenty. I've bought gourds for martin houses, and am studying making it a little refuge. I guess I need to calm down a little -- I'd love to make a space for an owl, but then everything else there becomes bait, you know?
We shall see -- and if I can make it a habitat, I'll load in some photos. I'm SO excited.
Put mosquito dunks in the rain barrel. Harmless except to mosquitoes.
I'll second the mosquito dunks for ponds. They are target specific and will only obliterate mosquito larva.
Attracting an owl to your property would be awesome. You'll need a nice big snag. Go for it.
Regarding the Purple Martins, there's going to be a new member here who might be in a position to guide you in that arena. He's going to be leaving for vacation tomorrow and won't be back until next week but he will be a brain trust to tap into. Hold on spending money on gourds and such for just a little bit if at all possible ok?
Purple Martins? Did you mean me? :)
I just got back from my trip and then checking my inherited, multi-species area out. House Sparrows destroyed five Bluebird eggs in one box. They built a half of a HOSP nest on top of the Bluebird nest and then abandoned the nest. I have lost one clutch of six Tree Swallow eggs this year to what I suspect was HOSP, but can't be sure.
The rest of the boxes were doing well. I have four empty Bluebird boxes, three Bluebird eggs in one box (fledged one already from an early brood) and four Tree Swallow Nests - 2 eggs, 6 eggs, 5 eggs and one with 4 out of 5 eggs hatched.
As far as the Purple Martins go I added a Martin gourd rack to the site I am working. The birds are used to old 6X6X6 compartments in aluminum housing. My first eggs were four laid in a gourd just over a week ago. No eggs were laid in the 24 available small compartments in aluminum housing last week. This week I have signs of a couple of more nests in the gourds, but in the aluminum house #1 I have four Martin nests with 4 eggs, 4 eggs, 3 eggs and 5 eggs. In #2 I have four nests with 2 eggs, 1 egg, 5 eggs and 1 egg. I have 6 to 10 more nests that seem to be complete and should have eggs in the next two weeks.
I removed a House Sparrow nest w/eggs from compartment #6 of house #1 two weeks ago. They evicted Purple Martins in compartment #3 and built a new nest w/eggs. I removed that nest last weekend. This weekend I permanently removed the female HOSP and eggs from the rebuilt nest in the same compartment. Nobody who will not, or cannot, dispose of European Starlings and House Sparrows should consider providing nest boxes for any over our native cavity nesting birds, except those that are small enough to not allow a HOSP to enter.
I have a GREAT love for all raptors. I have studied Peregrine Falcons in Lansing, Michigan since 1998. I admire your love for all that is natural, but Martins and Owls should be kept at a safe distance! Hawks, Owls and Falcons do serious damage to Martin colonies. They can wipe a colony out. I would never encourage trying to get both species to nest in the same area. That said, I have never been able to start my own Martin colony, but have had both color phases of Eastern Screech Owls nesting for years.
Your Martins need open spaces, preferably within 100' from your house, with no trees within another 100' or more. Texas is a great place for Martins. It's MUCH easier to do than up here, in Michigan! Good luck and if you need any tips, just ask. I have a BUNCH of Websites that you should know about.
Hello Mark, so good to see you. A very warm welcome to you from me. Today, my husband bought some threaded rod to be able to hopefully install my very first Martin House for me sometime this summer. I am very excited. My husband is going to design some sort of a hand cranking winch thingie so that the entire Martin house can be easily lowered for cleaning. I am hoping that I am able to attract a few Martins in the years to come. I selected what I believe to be an ideal location for my Martin house. Smack dab center of my front yard. It won't exactly create curb appeal but that gives me the most open space in all but one direction. The other good thing about this location is that it will only be about 50' from a second floor bedroom window so I can get some binnoculars and watch. To the south, west, and north of this location... there will be no trees or structures to obstruct them for well over 100'. I forgot what height he was going to install it but I think he mentioned 16'. Like I said, I am very excited.
Thanks, but don't get too excited yet!
Plan on moving the house up and down at least once a week, with minimal rocking of the house. You need to check for parasites and dead young at least once per week during the nesting season. You shouldn't count on birds this year. Nesting is started and most colonies are established. Get everything right for next spring.
Serious Purple Martin "landlords" count every egg, how many hatch, how many fledge . . . Purple Martins are a "species of special concern" in Michigan and their numbers are in decline. Illinois has the same problem. Anyone interested in Martins should be willing to spend many hours learning and many more working!
It's really very cool and interesting in the end.
Next year? Cool! I had heard that it might take 2-3 years to get occupants. That's encouraging.
Parasites I can handle. I don't like it but I'll do it. Removing dead babies killed by HOSPs turns my stomach though but I'll do that too.
Gee whiz! This one took quite a turn from the pond question. But that's great -- I'm SO glad to have the advice on the martin houses. I'm thinking maybe I'd be better off trying to induce an owl to take up residence. And I was thinking I shouldn't try to get both there, unless I was just luring the martins in to feed the owls, which just is NOT one of those things I want to do. And lots of people around here (though not in my immediate vicinity) have martin houses.
Stelco, I know I read somewhere about making an owl house out of a gourd. Do you know about that? I'll have to do a little research and find out what kind of owls live around here and their nesting requirements. I do know there are barn owls. Any suggestions highly appreciated. I love owls, and I love working with gourds, so it kind of seems natural.
Location, location, location! Some folks can put up a Purple Martin house and get birds the same day. For some folks it just never happens. I know a fellow who has been trying for close to 30 years, now. In the good old days practically every farmer had a Purple Martin house and colony in the Midwest. Family farms started to give way to corporate farms. Man played around with DDT and other chemicals to kill insects (Purple Martins only food source) and we drained wetlands which provide flying insects.
The Purple Martin is part of Native American history. Before the “white man” came to North America Indians hung gourds around their camps for Martins to nest in. They kept insects down and warned of any animals near camps. Back then there were plenty of natural cavities for Martins to nest in, too. If it wasn’t for man providing housing for the eastern species of Purple Martin they would be extinct. There are only a few accounts of nesting in signs and similar, odd places. Housing and caring for Martins is critical in maintaining their existence. The more interested and educated Martin “landlords” that we have the better. One of the more recent methods used to prevent cold weather spring deaths of entire colonies is emergency feeding. During three or more days of temperatures less than 50 degrees there are no flying insects. On about the third day without food Martins start to absorb muscle tissue. By day four or five they are no longer able to fly. Tens of thousands of Martins were lost in the spring of 2002 throughout the northern states. Landlords started feeding Martins crickets by “flinging” them into the air. This takes patience. But, once the birds learn they can be coaxed into feeding on crickets on a platform feeder. Then, (don’t laugh) they will learn to eat scrambled eggs if offered. Eggs are cheaper than crickets, they offer a great source of protein and the Martins actually begin to prefer them over crickets. Emergency feeding should be stopped after the first eggs hatch. It is usually quite warm by then.
I have heard of Owls nesting in gourds. I know that Eastern Screech Owls have nested in gourds meant for Purple Martins and do raid Purple Martin nests. Barn Owls – check these out:
A GREAT site for many nest cams, including Barn owls:
My Eastern Screech Owls have nested in a Wood Duck nest box that I nailed to a tree years ago. Just research your local Owls and build a box that will suit them size wise.
Please don’t attempt to attract Owls and Martins. You are correct; it’s one or the other. Many Owls will prey on feeder birds and any birds that nest on or near your property.
Thanks, Mark. I'll visit those sites and educate myself before I make critical decisions for some of my fellow creatures. As I think I said earlier, I'm right in the Big Thicket (east Texas piney woods park/refuge area) and wildlife is abundant as the town is small enough for people to have left it alone for the most part. Of course, they spray for mosquitos, and it's hard to convince people they're better off trying for a natural balance. (I'll admit I'd rather not get bitten by the little buggers myself.) But I promise I'll think things through before I do anything. Practicing what I preach.
I really appreciate the input!
During three or more days of temperatures less than 50 degrees there are no flying insects. On about the third day without food Martins start to absorb muscle tissue. By day four or five they are no longer able to fly. Tens of thousands of Martins were lost in the spring of 2002 throughout the northern states. Landlords started feeding Martins crickets by “flinging” them into the air. This takes patience. But, once the birds learn they can be coaxed into feeding on crickets on a platform feeder. Then, (don’t laugh) they will learn to eat scrambled eggs if offered. Eggs are cheaper than crickets, they offer a great source of protein and the Martins actually begin to prefer them over crickets. Emergency feeding should be stopped after the first eggs hatch.