Tuesday, August 5, 2008

500 Purple Martins

I got out for a jog after work today, and found myself on the T&C playing fields around 7:00 PM. I saw a group of about 30 Purple Martins in the air over Lake Creek. Then I looked downstream and saw dozens of dark birds on the foul ball netting of the large baseball field. I made my way over and saw quite a sight. On the light posts and netting around the large baseball field I estimated 500 Purple Martins perched. As I got closer about 80 flew off the nearest light post and swarmed around in the air before gradually returning to the light post a few minutes later. I believe this is a post-breeding and pre-migration roost site. And it's quite a spectacle. I hope you can check it out!


Annie in Austin said...

Mikael - a garden and nature blogging friend in Virginia posted some photos of the enormous swirls of Purple Martins in Richmond, VA if you're interested.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Mikael Behrens said...

Hi Annie. Pretty neat! We have at least one similar huge Purple Martin roost here in Austin at Highland Mall. I assume the birds are still gathering there although I have not heard reports of them this year. I read that Purple Martins also form giant urban roosts like these on their wintering grounds in South America.

Annie in Austin said...

I didn't know about the Highland Mall Martins, Mikael. Have you seen this refuge in South Austin?
It was on Central Texas Gardener:
"Laura Joseph fills the grounds around her historic home with unusual and engaging plants, from native and exotic ferns to colorful tropicals for sun and textural specimens for shade. She and her neighbors also care for the largest purple martin population in Travis County."

Here's a link to the YouTube of this segment from CTG and KLRU. The first part is about ferns but then the martins are featured, with neighbors handling the baby birds. I asked Linda the producer if the birds minded and she replied,"Actually, the martins are very human-friendly. They want their houses to be close to yours. And they don’t mind the babies being handled. It’s important to monitor the nests for mites or the babies that die–to get them out and clean the mites off the live ones.... The little birds loved to be handled!"

This astounds me and it's fun to watch.