First Arrivals 2005 at Saxon Golf Course Colony Include a Banded ASY-M
Ken Kostka
Purple Martin Preservation Alliance
http://www.purple-martin.org
Pittsburgh, PA

 

    On March 30, 2005, at approximately 1:30 p.m., I spotted the first martins of the season at Saxon Golf Course near Saxonburg, PA - an ASY-M and an ASY-F. The temperature was near 70 degrees and the skies were sunny. I didn't have the opportunity to look for bands with my spotting scope that day, but on April 3rd, temperatures plummeted into the 30's with wind-chills in the teens, and over 4 inches of snow fell. I arrived at the site with crickets and mealworms around 4:00 p.m. after the weather had moderated a bit. It had also rained constantly the day before (April 2nd), so I was sure any martins present would be hungry since they wouldn't have fed for two days. It soon became obvious that they weren't as hungry as I thought.  When I tossed crickets, they would veer away at the last second. I originally trained this colony to feed by using tossed crickets, but I later changed to mealworms, and they have always preferred them. When I tossed the giant mealworms, they went for them, and ended up eating about 10 each.

    They finally landed on a power line and I was able to check them out with my spotting scope. The male had a yellow leg band with the markings M096.  I had banded him as a nestling at a large colony about 31 miles northwest in Grove City, PA on June 17, 2001. (see map). I did not see him again until July 10, 2003, when he arrived at the Saxon Golf Course colony in the middle of the breeding season as an ASY-M (adult male), well before he could have successfully fledged nestlings.  I suspect that he had bred unsuccessfully at another site and was just roaming around. Interestingly, a never-seen-before banded ASY-F arrived at the colony around the same time, so it is possible they had been paired and were traveling together after their failed breeding attempt, but this is pure speculation. He bred at Saxonburg site in 2004.

    I thought it was interesting that these two martins seemed quite active and vigorous after two days of not feeding. The were flying robustly, high and far, and coming in occasionally to snag a mealworm or two. The temperature was still in the 30's and it was quite windy. My hands were very cold; there was snow on the houses! (The picture to the right is Duke Snyder standing next to another house at a colony about 20 miles away at Moraine State Park a few hours earlier.)  I thought they would want to conserve as much energy as possible. Perhaps martins have greater fat reserves at this time of the season - when they often encounter poor weather that can last for days. Perhaps they could sense that the bad weather was breaking. It became sunny and close to 60 degrees the next day.

Incidentally, Duke also got his first martin (an ASY-F) in Butler, PA on March 30. We fed her crickets on April 3rd as well.

Ken Kostka
Purple Martin Preservation Alliance
http://www.purple-martin.org