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From Missouri Conservationist: May 2006

Martin Mania

Wow! What a beautiful cover picture of a purple martin—it’s so natural looking. I can hardly wait for the martins to return; I have successfully had martins for a number of years. I have three 12-compartment houses.

I tried putting a mirror in the back of one of my units to discourage a stubborn starling—sure made him mad. I use sparrow door trays and also some wire traps, but still spend a lot of time fighting the starlings and sparrows.

Ruby Henderson, Independence

I really enjoyed your article in the March issue about purple martins. We live west of Lebanon off highway 64 and had a colony of 193 active pairs last year. Also, Robert Moss, of Sleeper, had 160 active pairs, while Fred and Rosie Pierce in Rogersville had another colony. We thought you might be interested in knowing about these.

Gene & Imogene Pierce, Lebanon

For years I had two 12-apartment martin houses that produced 20 to 22 nests annually. the co-op built an electric substation within roughly 300 feet of the 16-foot houses, and I haven’t seen a martin near them since.

Also, Jim Low did an article on myself and hummingbirds back in 1995. It mushroomed into a full page in Birds & Blooms magazine, three hardcover books and some newspaper articles. I have had letters and visitors from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia to California; even had Harry Truman’s pharmacist down here hunting nests. That was 1995 with three feeders. I’m now up to eight with 2 gallons of juice per day. I fed 350 pounds of sugar last year.

John E. Hillman LtCol USAFRet.

via Internet

Editor’s note: According to wildlife ecologist Brad Jacobs, it might be impossible to determine why the martins left. It could have been related to something on their long migration route, such as rainy weather, which is the major killer of martins. After 3 to 4 days of rain and no flying insects to eat, there could have been a massive die-off of martins throughout the rainy region. When die-offs happen, the martin population may take a decade or more to rebound. Then again, your martins may return this year.

Wetland Initiative Hits 50

In the March issue, you had an article about Missouri’s wetlands, with a photo of four men and their birds from 1958. Can you tell me who those men are? My family is from that area and I’m really curious since they were hunters and trappers.

Cecil Jacobs, Meadville.

Editor’s note: The photo was taken from our print archives. Unfortunately, the date and location were the only identifying details available. We are now compiling a digital database of our photos to guard against such loss of detail in the future.

I enjoyed reading “Golden Anniversary Wetland Initiative” in your March issue. I’ve been coming to Missouri to hunt Canada geese for over 30 years. I’ve seen a lot of changes in hunting opportunity in given areas.

Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge in the 70s and 80s was as good as it gets. I’ve also hunted Fountain Grove CA and Duck Creek CA with great luck. Fountain Grove can still be an exciting place to hunt geese.

I know that MDC isn’t involved with Swan Lake anymore, but as far as goose hunting goes, both Swan Lake and Duck Creek are known more for what they were, than for what they are now.

David Deike, Wellsburg, IA

Editor’s Note: Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For more information, check out their Web site or contact John Guthrie, refuge manager, at, or write to: 16194 Swan Lake Ave., Sumner, MO 64681. Phone: (660) 856-3323. Fax: (660) 856-3687. TTY: (800) 877-8339.

Resources For Readers with Visual Impairment

The Wolfner Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is a free library service for Missouri residents who are unable to use standard print materials due to visual or physical disabilities. For more information, contact: Wolfner Library, P.O. Box 387, 600 W. Main St., Jefferson City, MO 65102-0387. Phone: (573) 751-8720 or toll free: (800) 392-2614. Fax: (573) 526-2985. E-mail:

Assistance is also available through Social Services’ Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, via the Center for Braille & Narration. For more information, contact: Center for Braille & Narration Production, Attn: Maureen Stocksick, Missouri Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, 615 Howerton Ct., P.O. Box 2320, Jefferson City, MO 65102-2320. Phone: (573) 526-0611 or call toll free: (800) 592-6004. Fax: (573) 526-0611. E-mail:

The letters printed here reflect readers’ opinions about the Conservationist and its contents. Space limitations prevent us from printing all letters, but we welcome signed comments from our readers. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: I have some bird questions. What can I do about the crazy cardinal flying against my window? Also, what can we do about sparrows taking over our bluebird boxes?

A: Territorial disputes are a regular issue with many birds and it appears your cardinal is having issues with its reflection. Whatever you can do to lessen or eliminate the reflection will be helpful. Some remedies are a little unsightly, like mylar streamers hung in front of the window. Soaping the window is another method which can discourage this sort of activity.

House sparrows and European starlings are non-native species which have no closed season according to Chapter 7 of the Missouri Wildlife Code. Folks with nest boxes are often frustrated by the aggressive behavior of these two birds. As with most problem animal issues, persistence is the key. Removing the nest is a first step, but eliminating the bird is the surest remedy. There are several strategies which can be effective in discouraging unwanted nesters.

Ombudsman Ken Drenon will respond to your questions, suggestions or complaints concerning Conservation Department programs. Write him at P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, call him at (573) 522-4115, ext. 3848, or e-mail him at <>.

This Issue's Staff

Editor in Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
Art Director - Cliff White
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Writer/editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Designer - Susan Fine
Circulation - Laura Scheuler