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Saturday, March 1, 2014

MR. CAIN BUILDS FOLKSY HOUSING FOR PURPLE MARTINS IN KENTUCKY







Building handmade houses for Purple Martins became a passion of Mr. Cain during the time he worked at a transfer station in Kentucky. A transfer station is where you take used materials to be transferred to appropriate land fills. While working at the station he noticed a few things; 1) some reusable building materials were being thrown away, 2) early spring arriving Purple Martins were checking out this location for possible nesting sites as it was located in open acreage, and 3) he slowly had become fascinated with the flying martins.



So began a sideline of building martin houses that he placed around the station. He also built martin houses for folks that brought materials to be transferred. All his houses were built with the cast-off materials that folks so willingly threw away at the station. Most houses were three-holers while a very few were the regulation size that one sees for sale in farm supply stores. 


Having a sense of what it takes to attract martins he eventually had a thriving community of martins that returned every year. He eventually ended up with a cluster of 15 folksy martin houses. 

 When I used to visit Mr Cain, at his work space, I was received by the aerial antics of the insect-eating martins that swooped and dove in midair for their meals. I understood how one could get hooked on having a martin house in their yard. 

All the above houses are part of those designed and made by Mr. Cain for his workplace. Mr Cain retired a few years ago and since then the houses have, unfortunately, been deteriorating. Purple Martins east of the Rockies need someone to take care of their housing -- approximately one million folks in eastern North America put up housing for these totally house dependent martins. West of the Rockies martins are not dependent on folks to provide housing.


Male and Female Purple Martins
Resource: YE Yard Envy 


Here is an excellent site, The Purple Martin Conservation Association, that has information on such subjects as migration maps and behavior. 






29 comments:

  1. What a very nice hobby and history of helping birds. And so nice that the insect population was reduced naturally.

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    1. Mr Cain was doing fine as a retiree when I left KY. I often think about the wild ones and fine folks I met in KY. I wish someone had taken the initiative to keep up the Purple Martin community. thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  2. I especially love that he used old materials. Not only is it saving garbage from the landfill but old woos is not full of chemicals that the new wood is. Much better for the birds!

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    1. Birdie -- Good points about his use of old materials. I noticed the one birdhouse is old barn wood -- I don't think it has the very toxic chemicals they are using today. thanks for the good comment -- barbara


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  3. what a terrific post, Barbara! I love the story of Mr. Cain and his martin houses…and I appreciate the link as we have some old dilapidated martin houses here at our place that we inherited from the previous owners. I've wanted to do something about them for years. thank you!

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    1. Starr -- Oh what a great post that would be to follow your restoration efforts of your martin houses. I know it would be a great project but also a big project. thanks -- barbara

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  4. They look very sturdy. I imagine the martins must have appreciated those shingled roofs whether they knew it or not.

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    1. Melissa -- A touch of humanity -- the shingle touch that is. That is part of what makes them folksy. I'm sure the martins could care less about the shingles! thanks -- barbara

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  5. My brother-in-law has built some bluebird houses to put up this spring. I'll have to mention the martins. We tried twenty odd years ago, with no success. Now we're seeing bluebirds, martins may be close behind.

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    1. Joanne -- Mr Cain was also into bluebirds. I have a few photos of his bluebird houses too. Might put them online someday? I hope you post your bluebird houses. Where I lived in KY folks were into the big multi-platform martin houses or the gourd houses. I always enjoyed watching the martins but never had a house for them -- I cheated --I watched them in neighbor's yards. thanks -- barbara

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  6. Well done, Mr Cain. Our House Martins build mud nests up under the eaves of houses - most people love the birds but many are less impressed by the mess they make on your windowsill.

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    1. John -- Your House Martins sound similar to what we refer to as Barn Swallows here in the states. Some Barn Swallows here do make some of their nests under the eaves of window casings. I'm not an expert on birds but I sure do enjoy them. And, it sounds like you do too!

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  7. What a lovely story, and I think those Martins were very lucky indeed...fine crafted homes. What does "upkeep" entail on Martin Houses? I wonder if they must keep dry. Or do people have to clean out old nests? Not that I have any, just curious.

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    1. Barb -- You are right -- folks should clean out nests especially if other types of birds try to take over the martin houses. The link on my post is great if you would like to learn more about the martins. I imagine that there are some folks around your neighborhood that have purple martins -- they're interesting to watch. -- thanks -- barbara

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  8. Some classic birdhomes here. The 'birdman' likes 'em.

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    1. Birdman -- me thinks you are one who knows a lot about birds from your name -- barbara

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  9. I wonder if you're saying that the martins on the other side of the Rockeys build their own houses or they just use hollows in trees? Why is there a difference in the nesting on the two different coasts.

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    1. June -- You are right -- I understand that western martins do use hollows in trees and sometimes they use individual birdhouses along with tree cavities.I wish I knew why there is a difference between east and west nesting. thanks -- barbara

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  10. What a wonderful thing he did for the environment, both for the birds and for reusing those materials.

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    1. Michelle -- Yes, great for you to point out that Me Cain hit "two birds with one stone," he used the recycled materials as well as provided homes for the martins -- good for the environment and good for the birds. thanks -- barbara

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  11. How neat. I'm glad to see these magnificent large swallows are doing well elsewhere as they are practically extinct here in Minnesota. It's been years since I've seen any....:(

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    1. Do you ever see their houses up on poles in your state? I have learned that the birds are dependent on us to provide housing (east of the Rockies) otherwise there will not be any visiting. Perhaps you could visit the Cornell bird site and ask them if anything is going wrong with Purple Martins in your area. Would be sad to know that your state has lost them. thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  12. I love the recycled houses! Such beautiful and useful birds.

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    1. Vicki -- Mr Cain was a quiet and gentle man. He sure loved his birds. thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  13. I loved reading this and looking at the pix. We have transfer stations, too, in this rural and semi-rural place.

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    1. Hattie -- thanks -- transfer stations were a new idea to me when I lived in Oregon quite awhile ago. I believe the transfer station idea has now spread across many states. The transfer station man in Santa Fe would set aside any good usable throwaways that people would bring to the his station. A good shovel, good chair, anything that someone could use. He set it up like a yard sale and folks would pick through it and take it home for free. I liked that idea. -- barbara

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  14. I love that Mr. Cain...I hope some one will carry on his work...I just loved those shingled roofs!

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    1. Rita -- Sad to say when I left KY no one was taking care of his community of birdhouses at the transfer station. -- thanks for thinking of his work -- barbara

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