Purple Martin Colony Visit

By Laura Hampton

On a hot May Saturday a few weekends ago, I dutifully followed Google’s navigation instructions and arrived at a huge surprise of a property tucked away just off Barton Springs Road. I parked (easily! On the street! Am I in Austin?) and walked into Laura Joseph’s gift to all of us, a property fully dedicated to the conservation of Purple Martins. The day’s festivities kicked off with a live stream of five “pinkies,” their harried mom popping in every few minutes to deliver yet another dragonfly, while we casually snacked on cookies (Purple Martin shaped, naturally) and lemonade and looked on.

Competing for most gorgeous scenery were the countless Purple Martins, of course, darting in and out of several different generations of birdhouses, and Laura’s beautifully manicured yard and gorgeous home just next door to the park she established.

Best of all were the passionate and kind “Purple Martin Landlords,” perhaps the only landlords in good favor in Austin after this past round of appraisals. These volunteers keep diligent logs of where the nests are, when eggs show up and how many, and when they hatch. I followed Adam around the grounds, who lowered a few clusters of birdhouses to show us the next generation of precious tenants.

There’s a landlord schedule to make sure that someone gets eyes on the birds each day – occasionally a baby will fly the coop prematurely, in which case they are scooped up by a landlord and plopped back into a nest of similarly sized babies. Also on each post is a snake guard – a tutu, basically – another attempt to give these babies the best chance possible. 

Nest counts are down this year compared to previous years, and the scorching summer won’t help, but days like this give me hope that we can and will make things better. Thanks to Laura and the landlords for a lovely day!