By Phil Donahue
My brain caught fire the moment I first saw a Purple Martin, fluttering like a humming bird, diving like an osprey and performing eye-popping aerial maneuvers beyond the imagination of the world's best ballet dancers. What in the world are they doing up there? They are feeding. Purple Martins are aerial insectivores. Like a tiny vacuum cleaner they take in bugs in flight - the food supply for the whole family.
The kids should see this!
I am so fascinated by the Purple Martin's life on the wing that I have electrified the neighborhood which provides a live (Yep, it's live!) moving picture of the care and feeding of the chicks born at the quaintly named,
Purple Martin Acres by the Sea
A planned community on Long Island Sound
(All are welcome, as long as you're purple.)
Much of my excitement comes from knowing that some young mind out there will be as fascinated by this drama as I am. I am pleased to invite you to enjoy live video of one of nature's most fascinating dramas: the laying, hatching, feeding and fledging of the amazing Purple Martin as seen on this web site:
Which young person who visits our web site will be turned on to a life of science? Which young Gazebophil viewer will help develop a vaccine, become a professional in the life sciences joining like-minded scholars in uncovering Mother Nature's secrets? A whole lot of those secrets have never been unlocked.
Which young Gazebophil web visitor will become a professional soldier in the war on pollution? Which one will preserve the Purple Martin species? These are the young minds who will some day save the shoreline from the man-made decay that challenges the survival of the glorious shore birds that now inhabit our fabulous North East Coast.
Who, among the young focused on our Gourd Cam nest today will win a Nobel Prize tomorrow?
Some questions for our final exam:
How long do Purple Martins live?
Why do they migrate such a long distance, there are no bugs in Brazil?
How does Mom know who Dad fed? And vice versa.
How do these birds keep a non-fouled nest?
Do Martins eat mosquitoes?
When do they go back to Brazil?
My partner in this live television event is Connecticut Audubon Society. See their site for commentary written by the neo-Darwins of Audubon whose brains have already caught fire. These are the young people who believe they are participating in the most fascinating experience on earth - the study of the life sciences, taking bird inventories, getting socks wet in swamps, being bug-bitten and standing alone in the field recording observations. This is the necessary hard work that will unlock secrets that contribute to our understanding of life's diversity.
Audubon's color is green - it's been that way a long time. Before the TV cable shows began to shout about pollution, toxic waste and the degradation of our planet, there was Audubon -- often alone -- mightily pushing back against decay and ensuring that our grandchildren will actually see a live Purple Martin one day.
This web site will mesmerize you. And you might win a Nobel Prize!
I am, and all my friends agree, for the birds,
(Oh, almost forgot, turn up the sound.)
Phil gently handles a group of Purple Martins.
GazeboPhil takes a moment to admire the Martins at his colony on the Long Island Sound, two gourd "trees," 48 gourds. Last year the colony produced 184 chicks. They all flew to Brazil last August and several returned here this Spring for another breeding season. Brazil and back in less than a year. Wow!
Phil, his gazebo, and Purple Martins--the components that led to the creation of GazeboPhil.com. Purple Martins are aerial insectivores, they feed on flying insects (many unseen by the human eye). PM's often feed the kids dragonflies. Wait till you see this. (And you will)
Phil with one of his newest friends.
Tammy Conley, a Connecticut Audubon Volunteer checks housing. Note the birds in flight around the other gourd tree. When the other species (homo sapiens) show up, these birds don't like it but appear to know we're not hostile. They return to the nests immediately after returning the gourds to their normal height.
Making sure all is right for the Purple Martins.
The Purple Martins have returned to Connecticut! This little guy (probably hatched last year) has just returned from a four thousand mile trip from Brazil. No sweat, no heavy breathing. Purple Martins are a gritty species.
A Purple Martin rests atop a Gourd. John Tautin, who heads the Purple Martin Conservation Association used a tracking device which revealed an astonishing migratory journey. Martins fly over four thousand miles, averaging 360 miles per day!
Milan Bull, Senior Director of Science and Conservation for Connecticut Audubon, and GazeboPhil team up to manage the thriving Martin colony.
From left to right, Steve Brockwell, Milan Bull, Phil Donahue and John Tautin discussing Purple Martins.
Everyone pitches in during the bird banding process.
Phil returns a tagged Purple Martin to the Gourd.
A Purple Martin gets banded.
Silver federal band on the left, red CT color band on the right.
A Purple Martin with a four-minute old hatchling being fed.
Six Purple Martin nestlings not even two weeks old yet.
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