This is our second spring with our purple martins. Last year the first birds arrived on February 27th. It was a thrill this year when our first purple martin was a day earlier on February 26th. The rich, gurgling call heralds spring even more than the robins, who had been here for weeks. Our purple martins winter in South America. Their journey is about 3000 miles, as the crow flies, to their winter home, most likely in the Amazon Valley of Brazil. Our martins will be with us through summer, when they will concentrate in huge numbers at Lake Murray before their late summer migration back to Brazil.
We grow our large gourds right here on the farm, about twenty yards from our purple martin poles. During December and January, we select our gourds from the field. We scrub them, drill their entrance hole, and some drain holes in the bottoms. We rig the gourds with good wire hangers, and have a painting party. We painted 18 gourds for our martins this year. Ten on our purple martin pole from last year, and eight gourds on our new pole our friend Colin welded for us.
Our martin houses hang over Gloria’s vegetable garden, and provide a lot of friendly interaction as we come and go. Soon egg-laying will begin. Each of our purple martin nests will have five or six white eggs. That’s 90-108 eggs! Each day at sunrise, one egg is laid and no days are skipped until the egg-laying stops. The incubation period is about 15 days, and our new purple martins will fledge about 25 to 35 days after hatching.
That first purple martin scout, who arrived on February 26th, is among the oldest members of his population, and got to choose the best gourd house. Our organic farm will provide an abundance of soft bodied insects for our growing clan of handsome swallows. This is our second spring with our purple martins, but these amazing birds have lived with American Indians long before 1492. Purple Martins were dooryard birds in Indian villages, living in their gourds likely nearby. Beech Island was the area’s largest Indian trading post at the northernmost navigable point on the Savannah River.
Purple martins have long been admired, encouraged, and protected here. Consider being a purple martin landlord yourself next year, and come see our birds at our upcoming Mother’s Day event on the farm. We will have some painted gourds for sale, and we are even setting the studio up with paints and brushes for you to try your hand at painting purple martin gourds. We’ll have plenty of gourd seeds for you, and we’ll even show you which gourd our first scout chose as “Best in the neighborhood”.