Monday, May 26, 2008

Purple Martins

I was sitting on the couch tonight watching the 6:00 news and knitting on a hat. The windows were open and all of a sudden I heard it--a purple martin chirping outside! Now here's where I'm going to give a true confession: no matter where I am or what I'm doing, part of my concentration will be on listening for birds--whether it's on TV, or I'm near an open window or especially when I'm outside. This tends to drive people crazy -- especially people who spend any time with me outdoors (right Sissy?) because they might be in the middle of a story and I'll just stop them and say something like, "Did you hear that Indigo Bunting over there?" It's not that I'm deliberately trying to be rude, I'm just obsessed with birds.

OK, where was I? Oh yeah, back to the purple martins.....I jumped up and dashed to the patio door to look outside and sure enough, there they were! One was sitting on top of the pole while the other one was inside one of the gourds looking out. I grabbed my binocs and camera and headed out to the yard. The nice thing about martins is that they aren't fearful of humans, so I was able to get really close for this little video where you can hear him chirping.

It was so coincidental because I had just let the gourd rack down earlier this afternoon to take out some of the doorstops (put in earlier this spring to keep sparrows, starlings and tree swallows out till the martins arrived). I just had kind of a feeling that martins might be arriving soon, but I expected it would be the sub-adult martins. The pair that visited tonight were adults (the male was completely dark purple).

Adult Male Purple Martin
(when you see a real martin, you wonder how they could possibly be fooled by my decoy attached to this perch!)

I'm not sure where this pair came from, but I hope they come back (they departed shortly after I took these pictures).


Anonymous said...

You have real purple martins, that is so special. Many years ago we had them but then the trees grew up and they couldn't soar. They were lots of fun to have around and they ate mosquitos by the ton, and other things that fly. Between the martins and the bats there were hardly any flying insects around our yard. Our thrashers have been very vocal this weekend and so are our orioles. It was a perfect weekend for bird watching and listening. I'm waiting and watching for lightening bugs to show up.
Jim Gilbert said on his show yesterday that it is time to look for morel mushrooms, that's when the lilacs bloom, so if you are out in woods keep your eyes open for them.

Ruth said...

So yours are just arriving now. I am happy to see your video and hope to find some around here soon.

Jayne said...

Oh, I do hope they come back to nest Ruthie! Lucky you!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

How exciting. I didn't know they had decoy Purple Martins. Maybe we need one.

The couple didn't stay around our houses. A male did swoop around the houses again last week.

The Starling that scared them off earlier is gone. The Starling didn't nest in the boxes but must have nested nearby because it would try to claim the houses if another bird stopped on the house. Now the Starling Chicks are out and they have moved on...I hope for the season.

Now the House Sparrows are trying to make a claim on the houses. I just keep throwing their little collection of grass out.

I declared war on the House Sparrows last year becasue they kept attacking the House Wrens.

The House Sparrows have started nesting in other gardens around us but continue to come to our feeders.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mom,
Not sure if these martins will take up residence or not, but at least I got the chance to see some in my yard.
I've never been very lucky in my morel searches, I guess I should be looking at the ground instead of watching the trees for birds!

Hi Ruth,
Some of the martin landlords in this area had their martins arrive back in early April. Since my colony still isn't established, I have to wait for the later wave of arrivals and the middle to end of May is when I usually see my first ones. There should be some in your area now too if you can find any martin houses on your journeys around town. Good luck!

I hope so too, Jayne!

Hi Lisa,
There are starlings around my place, but I think they nest somewhere else. Now that suet is all eaten up, I hardly see them at all in the yard.
House sparrows are another story though! I keep tossing them out of bluebird houses and if I was home during the day, I'd get my traps out again. Fortunately, they don't seem to bother the martin gourds.
I did have tree swallows move into a martin gourd one year and they chased the martins away, so now I keep the doors blocked till the tree swallows set up housekeeping in other houses I have for them in the yard.
The things we do for purple martins.....

Mary said...

My friends in Maryland and Delaware have purple martins and they don't even care about birds.

On Sunday Gina and I were having a conversation on her back porch and when I suddenly went silent and started pishing, she almost peed her pants. We ARE a little nuts, you know.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mare,
That's funny about your friends with purple martins.....kind of like my cat who always seems to be most interested in the one visitor who *doesn't* like cats!
So you DO understand about the birds! After I came in last night, Mr Johnson asked me how I even heard that martin with all the other birds chirping in the backyard? Did Gina tell you that you're nuts? or is your family used to it by now too?

Anonymous said...

I actually identified my first purple martin of the year a few days ago. They are wonderful birds.

Marsha said...

Cute purple martins but I really enjoyed the true confession of always keeping an ear open for birdsongs :-)

Robin (Bumblebee) said...

You're so lucky! I'm disappointed that we haven't seen any at all. This is our first year, so I was hoping for beginner's luck. Now I'm wondering if we're too far away from fresh water. We're just a stone's throw away from the Chesapeake Bay, but that's salty.

I will still keep the doors open and my fingers crossed though.

Robin at Bumblebee

RuthieJ said...

Hi Scienceguy,
When I was a kid growing up in a small town, it seemed like there were purple martins everywhere and after a while they just disappeared. I never heard or saw another one until I was in my early 40's. This will be my 4th year of trying to establish a colony in my backyard. They're such neat birds.

LOL Marsha--you do that too, right?

Hi Robin,
The nearest fresh water to my backyard is a small man-made lake that's at least 1.5 miles away. I think people who live on a lake have a definite advantage for attracting more martins, but I've seen plenty of colonies where there's no water nearby at all, so keep the faith!

Meggie said...

What's the big deal? We all know you're obsessed with birds...tell us something we don't already know, Ruthie! That's why we love your blog!!

mon@rch said...

Love you that way and I would have been so excited with the martins being around! You just knew they would be showing up . . . I love it!

RuthieJ said...

Well thanks Meggie.....but you know, some people think I'm really weird! (however, if they have a bird question or sighting, they know to call me!)

Thanks Mon@rch, it's great to have friends who are as bird obsessed as I am!

Larry said...

Nice! I've never even seen a Purple Martin but we do get them in Connecticut so hopefully I'll see them this year.-Nice little chirping video!

Windyridge said...

Oh boy can I relate! No one seems to get as excited as I do when I identify who is around me outside. I too always have half an ear cocked to the bird sounds.

April said...

I do that too, always listening and watching for birds - I don't want to miss seeing something special. Your martins are pretty special, and you obviously have a very good ear. Enjoyed the video and photos. :)

Larry said...

Thanks for the tip about finding Purple Martins!

Julie said...

Martins. I think we have lots of these, but I'm guessing I may be wrong. I'm guessing there are several Martin-like type birds. I'll pull out the bird book and read up on them.
I was in SW Missouri last weekend and they have a lot of strip mine areas - picture large areas of what appears to be sand. In the side of one of the large sand (whatever) hills where these holes and birds (martins?) nesting in them. I wanted to get a closer look, but there was no shoulder and I didn't want to get stuck. Hey! I had to look back, but you were describing swallows, maybe thats what we have so much of here.
On another note, I'm constantly snapping pictures, but just haven't had the time to update my blog as I'd like to. So, while you're listening for the birds, I'm looking for them and stopping conversations, quickly pulling over (accident waiting to happen???) and snapping pictures of them!
I wish I could learn their sounds and maybe with time I can, but I hear so many bird calls that I don't recognize, especially in the woods. Oh and I hear Mr Brown Thrasher all the time no matter where I go he is there. He remains my favorite.