For the Birds: Spring feeding and purple martins

Purple martins with dragonflies.

I don’t see a lot of press releases now that journalism is no longer my full-time profession, but I did receive a few last week that caught my eye.

One was from Cole’s Wild Bird Products and the other from the Purple Martin Conservation Association. The topics were very different but did have one important commonality: spring.

Cole’s, which makes a red-hot blend that I’ve used and the birds loved, sent some spring bird-feeding tips. Many people stop feeding birds in the spring for a variety of reasons, including bears and not wanting birds to become dependent upon feeders, but I’m a big fan of spring bird feeding. It’s a great way to get close, long looks at birds such as grosbeaks, orioles, buntings and even a few warbler species if you’re lucky.

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Guarding their gourd

Photo by Chris Bosak Purple Martins stand guard on their gourd homes in Milford, Conn., May 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Purple Martins stand guard on their gourd homes in Milford, Conn., May 2014.

Here’s a shot I took of a Purple Martin pair a few weeks ago keeping watch at their gourd as part of the colony at Milford Point. Purple Martin colonies are excellent for insect control in people’s yards, but the conditions need to be just right to attract them.

On the East Coast, Purple Martins are completely dependent upon human-offered housing.

Check out this website for more information on attracting them.

PurpleMartin.org

Purple Martins arrive in New England

Contributed photo Milan Bull, Senior Director of Science and Conservation at Connecticut Audubon, sets up the Purple Martin gourds at the Coastal Center at Milford Point on Monday, April 14, 2014.

Contributed photo
Milan Bull, Senior Director of Science and Conservation at Connecticut Audubon, sets up the Purple Martin gourds at the Coastal Center at Milford Point on Monday, April 14, 2014.

It’s Purple Martin season in New England! Last week I ran into David Winston and Patrick Duggan putting up the Purple Martin gourds at Cove Island Park in Stamford. On Monday, after finishing my volunteer Piping Plover monitoring duties at the Coastal Center at Milford Point (CT), I ran into Milan Bull of Connecticut Audubon putting up the gourds there.

Purple Martin at Cove Island in Stamford.

Purple Martin at Cove Island in Stamford.

The Purple Martins had already arrived and many perched on the poles as Milan worked underneath to get the gourds ready. I even got my hands dirty and helped him out a bit (of course, he was nearly done by the time I got there.)

Purple Martins will return to the same site year after year, so if you were successful in getting Purple Martins last year, get your gourds or houses up soon. If you were not successful last year, or are trying for the first time this year, you can get the houses up now, or wait a few weeks. Younger birds seeking to start a new colony will arrive throughout the next several weeks, or even months. Just keep an eye on the gourds or houses for House Sparrows. Remove the nests if House Sparrows take up residence.

I’m far from an expert in attracting Purple Martins, so for more detailed information about Purple Martins, I’ll refer you to this site: http://www.purplemartin.org/

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