Purple Martin Passion (Part I)

Purple Martin

Purple Martin

In a day when people have access to so much, why can’t I get purple martins to nest at my housing? My son Matthew and I began this elusive quest back when he was a sophomore in high school (over ten years ago). A prolific bird watcher beyond his years, he designed a sixteen hole cedar box. I helped him carry his dream to reality with table saw, nails and paint.

Bulky, with nest boxes a bit undersized, we planted it way out by the field behind our house. One martin visited it while celebrating our son’s graduation from high school. The next spring we moved it closer to our home, and added another pole with eight gourds. Two years ago I built a modified, Troyer T-14, making it into a T-16 (16 holes) with crank–up capability. My current housing capacity is 44 nest sites.

Three years ago I added an outdoor speaker to my gourd pole and trenched speaker wire to my shed. There I powered an antiquated, single-CD player with our 35-year-old Lafayette tuner, bought with wedding money in 1975.
Fortunately, the CD starts to play when powered up. In the spring, when martins are arriving from their Brazilian migration, I play a “Dawnsong” call of a lone male martin in the wee-early morning hours, and a “Daytime Chatter” chorus of a recorded martin colony in the daylight hours. I have a timer to turn it on and off. Unfortunately, I have to hit the “repeat” button (just once) to keep the music playing throughout the day!

In the spring of 2008 I removed five sizeable pine trees with the help of friends and family, holding my breath as they crashed into narrow spaces behind my house and shed, and down my driveway. The cleanup took months! (Do you have any idea how much carbon is stored in a 60 foot white pine??) The opening in the back yard provided a wonderful flyway for in-coming and out-going martins, right over my three housing poles. Surely this was the missing link in my quest for nesting martins! Not so.

This past spring, I added four gourds and a homemade predator guard under my Troyer T-16 house. Each year I strategize a new technique for luring this largest, most beautiful and acrobatic of the swallows. Stay tuned as the saga continues. I haven’t even touched on House Sparrow and Starling eradication efforts yet…

Scriptures say to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)

I can hear the wailing beginning to erupt!

-Purple Martin Paul

Editor’s Note: New blog contributor Paul Gingerich of Kidron, Ohio, is a freelance writer with thirty years of experience teaching Spanish at Central Christian School.  He lives with his wife, Joyce and has two grown children, daughter Tabitha, son Matthew and wife Sara, all living in Harrisonburg, Virginia. We hope you will enjoy Paul’s reflections on country living.

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