It’s for the birds

Published 8:38 am Saturday, July 4, 2009

Kids and adults have been working together with success to increase the purple martin population in Austin.

The Izaak Walton League Austin Chapter No. 10 and Shooting Sports 4-H of Mower County have been collaborating both to help the fork-tailed swallows and to fulfill the 4-H group’s project requirement.

Seven 4-Hers and several adults met at East Side Lake Friday morning to conduct a weekly check of the martins’ nests. Four purple martin houses are located at the lake’s park and one is at Horace Austin Park by Mill Pond. Another stands at Village Cooperative.

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Bob Goetz, of the Austin Ikes chapter, said a newly-constructed 14-nest house at East Side Lake, as well as the Village Cooperative birdhouse, were knocked down by the recent tornado. Both have been repaired.

“We lucked out here,” Goetz said Friday, with several large trees uprooted by the tornado behind him.

Using Purple Martin Conservation Association data sheets, the 4-Hers track how many eggs have been laid and which ones are OK. Mother martins will abandon infertile eggs, Goetz said.

“Hatching success is not always that great,” he said.

There are about 25 active martin pairs on the public land birdhouses. During a count June 30, the group counted 60 eggs and 33 babies. On Friday, the group discovered many recently-hatched birds and some tiny feathered babies as well.

“That’s quite a bit better than what we’ve had in the past,” Goetz said of the last count.