Purple Martins Have Hatched at Milford Point!
August 1, 2016
We survived, in fact prospered, what started as a difficult season at our popular and significant Purple Martin colony at Milford Point. After the birds returned and began nesting, the weather turned particularly foul for aerial insectivores. Several days of cold, wet weather throughout the Northeast resulted in the deaths of dozens of Purple Martins state-wide. We lost only two.
These amazing birds quickly recovered, however, with the return of warm, dry weather and a big influx of flying insects. Not only did our pair recover, they responded by raising five chicks, all of whom fledged about a week ago.
After returning to the nest for a few evenings, our birds are now off on their own now and on their way to the wintering grounds in Brazil, perhaps in time for a bird’s eye view of the summer Olympics.
As they are touring the waterfront in Rio, hopefully scooping up a few Zika-laden mosquitos, we will be busy this fall cleaning and storing the nest gourds and installing a new nest camera and microphone.
We wish them well and await their return next spring!
Thanks to the generosity of Phil Donahue, the film producer and former television talk-show host, we are bringing you live video of the Purple Martin colony, and of the interior of one of the gourds, at our Milford Point Coastal Center. In the bottom view, the gourd that is occasionally shown in close-up is the one with the interior camera, so at times you might see one of the parents approaching in the exterior view and then entering in the interior shot.
Purple Martins feed on aerial insects, which are often caught in the rising thermal air currents that can carry them miles above the ground. The martins follow their food, and may feed so high that they can’t be seen against the blue sky. Most activity at the site tends to take place early or late in the day.
Martins are the one species nesting in Connecticut that we can truly say needs help from humans. A threatened species here, they nest only in human-made structures, either boxes or gourds.
Our colony is at the north edge of the Wheeler salt marsh (we encourage you to see it in person, from the observation deck near the Coastal Center’s parking lot). Purple Martins need open areas rich in aerial insect life. In Connecticut, that usually means coastal salt marshes, but there are a few inland colonies, as well, usually on farmland near a large body of water.
Purple Martins usually arrive in Connecticut toward the end of the first week in April. They will remain through August with a few lingering into the third week in September. Nesting colonies are often quite active early and late in the day.