Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Purple Martin nest sites under construction at Milford Point and Stratford Point

Thanks, in part, to a grant from the Connecticut Ornithological Association we were able to purchase two Purple Martin gourd trees to augment the existing Purple Martin nest box at the CAS Coastal Center at Milford Point and replace the defunct nest box on Stratford Point.

At least three pairs of Martins currently occupy the box at the Coastal Center (see photo above), but the remainder of the available nest sites is taken up by House Sparrows. Similarly, a nest box for Purple Martins on Stratford Point had been taken over entirely by European Starlings and has been removed.

Purple Martins are the largest swallow in the state. East coast populations of this species rely entirely on man-made nest sites and are generally found in close proximity to people's homes -- often near water. Competition for nest sites with European Starlings and House Sparrows, both invasive species, has led to a dramatic decline in Purple Martin populations. As a result, the species is currently listed as "threatened" under the Connecticut Endangered Species Act.

Special nesting gourds with openings designed to exclude starlings and sparrows while allowing access to the martins, provide excellent opportunities for this species to recover locally. Today we started the ground work for the installation of 48 new nesting gourds by constructing the bases on which the racks will be placed that hold the gourds. Although it is too late in the season for Purple Martins to utilize their new real estate this season, they will investigate the new gourd trees during their fall migration and hopefully colonize them next spring!

CAS Sanctuary Manager John Laiacone, Seasonal Technician Lauren Curtis and Conservation
Technician Scott Kruitbosch level the ground stake on which Milford Point's new Purple Martin gourd
tree will be placed.

A little later the same procedure is repeated on Stratford Point where another gourd tree will
be erected soon.

If you are interested in a closer look on the life of Purple Martins you should definitely check out the webcams trained on a thriving colony in Westport. These cameras, maintained by a long-time friend and supporter of CAS, even allow you to peek inside the gourds as the martins raise their young! Follow this link to get a live view of these fascinating birds (including infrared night vision cameras with sound that allow you to watch & hear these birds 24/7!). And keep an eye on this blog to see how construction of the new Purple Martin colonies at our facilities in Milford and Stratford progresses.

Photos by Twan Leenders

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