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purple martins

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  • Bill / Cheryl Day
    Bill and I went looking for purple martins yesterday at the East end of Grand Mesa. We took a 4-wd loop road, and the flowers amongst the sage was beautiful.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 6, 2005
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      Bill and I went looking for purple martins yesterday at the East end of
      Grand Mesa. We took a 4-wd loop road, and the flowers amongst the sage was
      beautiful. We crossed the creek several times, so we were in great high
      riparian habitat a lot of the time driving. We got to see willow flycatcher,
      hear catbirds, yellow warblers, and saw two spotted sandpipers. Hummingbirds
      were everywhere. No moose, although this was the area some were let loose.

      The purple martins were not as cooperative They were there, flying in and
      around the aspen, but a lot of the times they did not seem to be nesting. We
      would sit for an hour or more (in chest-high stinging nettle) waiting for
      them to land and no luck. I wonder if there is not as many dragonflies, etc
      this year, that some are simply not going to nest. There are more mosquitoes
      than I have ever seen, but contrary to popular opinion, martins eat the bugs
      that eat the mosquitoes.
      (See below.)

      But as always, sitting in one place allows you to really see the birds. The
      violet-green and tree swallows feed their young constantly. Baby tree
      swallows always seem to be singular, big, fat, and very interested in the
      world. I don't see how their parents fit in the hole with them. Purple
      martin babies, on the other hand, always look like they are dying. They hang
      their heads over the sides like they have just minutes left, very sad
      looking, never looking around until they hear their parents. Red-naped
      babies are very loud, but you rarely see them. And although you see plenty
      of house wren nests, I don't remember seeing young house wrens looking out.
      Also, as I was sitting in the aspens, a hairy woodpecker flew 50 feet from
      me and started his pecking, and went on for at least 10 minutes. It seems
      that after sitting there a while, you become part of the woods, and are
      accepted.

      On the way out, the gravel road seemed covered with pine siskins, robins,
      and young bluebirds. I don't know what they liked in the road, but it was
      hard not to hit one. We saw on tiny, tiny blue grouse starting to cross the
      road; made a quick sign of the cross and kept going.

      A beautiful day.

      Cheryl Day
      Hotchkiss
      (Martins, like all swallows, are aerial insectivores. They eat only flying
      insects, which they catch in flight. Their diet is diverse, including
      dragonflies, damselflies, flies, midges, mayflies, stinkbugs, leafhoppers,
      Japanese beetles, June bugs, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, cicadas,
      bees, wasps, flying ants, and ballooning spiders. Martins are not, however,
      prodigious consumers of mosquitoes as is so often claimed by companies that
      manufacture martin housing. An intensive 7-year diet study conducted at PMCA
      headquarters in Edinboro, PA, failed to find a single mosquito among the 500
      diet samples collected from parent martins bringing beakfuls of insects to
      their young)
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