Ecstasy and Agony: Purple Martins and Me

Oh the joys of Purple Martin stewardship! I recently was undergoing turmoil over a decision to add more housing this year or wait until next year. My husband’s gift to me of a Gourd Rack made my decision for me. When I saw the boxes in the garage I tore them open with a glorious glow about me that few people have seen. I held the shiny steel in my hands and reveled in the beauty of it. I immediately set to digging a very large deep hole in which to set the ground stake. The Ecstasy was soon to end.

For those that do not know a ground stake is a long piece of metal that is concreted in the ground with a portion of this stake sticking up out of the ground. The Purple Martin pole is then slid down over it allowing easy removal at the end of the season. Some people use a ground sleeve which is concreted in the ground first (flush with the ground) then the stake is inserted into the sleeve. This allows complete removal of the pole AND the stake so that only a concreted hole remains.

Well, here I am digging this hole to China. I am almost done and just trying to scoop out the last few chunks of dirt out of the bottom. I had battled the rock hard dirt and could taste victory. I recalled my U.S. Army days and knew that when my husband came out to “help” he would see this hole and be amazed at my hole digging prowess. I would look at him, non plussed, and simply state that this was nothing compared to digging fox holes in 20 degree weather.

But alas, disaster struck. In the last thrust of the shovel I felt, what I thought, was a sword ripping into my back. A red hot poker in my lumbar area of my spine. A half grunt-half whimper escaped my lips and I froze in absolute Agony. I held on to the shovel for dear life. I would not give my neighbors the satisfaction of laughing at the crazy bird lady with a broken back. I slowly, slowly righted myself up. Holding back as waves of nausea washed over me like an old friend.

My husband came out and took over and the concrete has dried and the pole is up. I did not wait the 2 days (as I should have) for the concrete to cure. I know, I know…I loaded 4 gourds on the rack and filled 3 of them with pine needles and 1 with cut up pieces of dried palm fronds (Thanks Joe!) and hoisted them effortlessly in the air as the sun set. The Martins descended as I walked to the house and as I turned around no fewer than 10 martins were sitting on the new rack looking it over.

¬†I am almost certain that I have a full house with all 21 compartments being occupied. Mostly with pairs. Even the gourd on the Shepard’s hook is occupied by a ASY male. I noticed a few nights ago a male sleeping on the outside porch of the Sunset Inn house. I am curious as to whether or not this is the same male that slept outside all season last year. It also could be that this male could not find an empty room and was in need of somewhere to sleep. I hope he finds a home in one of the new gourds.

As I had mentioned, I filled one gourd with cut up palm fronds. This was from a suggestion that Jose “Joe” Pellegrino, an elderly gentleman had told me about. He was a landlord in the Belle Glade area for many years. He told me he would cut up these dried palm fronds that had fallen off the trees in 3-4 inch sections, and use those as nest material. I am curious to see how they hold up. I will monitor and document what I find.

Epcot Center Martin Site

Epcot Center Martin Site

On another note, we went to Disney World AGAIN, this past weekend. We had to use up the tickets as they were to expire. This time we went to Epcot and I went to visit the Purple Martin Colony there. I saw about 10 Martins flying about and one dove in the T-14, another in a Troyer gourd but I was unable to photograph the birds. But the site is just as spectacular as I remembered. And NO sparrows!

Blog Copyrighted  S.Halpin/

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