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Portage Lakes Purple Martin Association
Newsletter archive

Past issues of the Purple Martin Newsletter



The 2009 Martin season started off with great expectations. The first “scout” was spotted at the State Mill Road site on March 29th while the Boy Scouts from Troop 336 Messiah Lutheran Church were assembling the poles. This is the earliest Martin arrival that we have documented since our founding in 2000. Over the next few weeks we had 108 After Second Year (ASY) males show up. This is a whopping  91.5% returned from the previous year. We had predicted all kinds of records to be set in 2009.


Category                                     Previous Record/ Year                          New Record /Year

ASY males                                       88        2008                                     08                      2009
Nests                                              118      2008                                  129
Eggs                                               574        2008                                    610                     2009
Hatchlings                                     484        2008                                     518                    2009
Fledglings                                     462        2008                                                               2009 (approx 350 fledged)
Site 100% occupied                                                                            Site #4 Hunter     2009


We were hoping to set another fledgling record and we probably would have except Mother Nature had other ideas. The weather turned wet and cold on June 28, 29, 30 & July 1. All across the northern tier of states, thousands of baby martins died. Although we were feeding scrambled eggs, we lost 126 babies. The interesting fact was that the babies that were newborn survived and the babies that had feathers survived. The age group that died were big babies just starting to get feathers. Probably these babies chilled and caught pneumonia. Paul Troyer has a colony of 140 nesting pairs and although he fed 7 dozen eggs a day, he lost about 70 babies. At site #4 gourd #4B4 had 4 babies before the cold, 2 survived. A nest check on July revealed only one baby had survived and he was in bad shape. We had seen the mother feeding the baby a very few times. It was more like she was checking to see if it was still alive. We began supplementing the bugs the mother could catch with scrambled eggs and wax worms. We left the baby in the gourd and fed it periodically during the day. As the weather improved we noticed the mother making more frequent trips with food. We continued our feeding. The baby fledged August 1st between 4:00 and 7:00. This baby is a real fighter to have survived his siblings in a worse case scenario weather. His band number is 2331-98407. Should anyone find him, please call Dan Kramer, Div of Wildlife 330-644-2293.


Our thanks to Don Day, Paul Toth. Phil & Judy Pinnow. Jay & Peggy Simmons, George Hungerford, Jim & Margaret Frost. St. Lukes Community Nursing Home, Mary Ann Phillips & Coventry High School. Jean Broida, Larry & Judy Hunter and all of the other members that fed scrambled eggs to the Martins. We did not lose one adult Martin this year from starvation. Judging by the high percentage of ASY males that returned this year, it appears that putting granulated egg shells in the scrambled eggs really helps the nutrition of adult birds. Next year we are restructuring our supplemental feeding program by getting more volunteers. It is much fun to feed the birds and it is not right for such a few people to have all the fun


Last year we initiated our banding program. We banded 262 Purple Martins, One was spotted at Junior Trover’s site outside Apple Creek, OH. This is a new site. How lucky to get a banded bird in your first year!! This year we expanded our banding program for Martins and included Tree Swallows. We banded 416 martins and 65 Tree Swallows. The Tree Swallows had a tough year also. Not so rnuch from the weather, but from their arch enemy the English Sparrow. We had 6 nests destroyed by these aggressive birds. We managed to fledge approximately 100 tree Swallows. Our thanks to John Kumits and Boy Scout Troop 118, Manchester United Methodist Church for erecting 12 Tree Swallow poles at New State Park. Interestingly, Tree Swallows occupied 6 (1 failed), House Wrens ( 3). Chickadee (1) Bluebird (1) and 1 was unoccupied.



BUCKEYE MARTINFEST  was held on June 21 at the Portage lakes Kiwanis Civic Center. As always our club puts on a neat event, 52 people attended some portion of the event. Our guest speaker was John Tautin, Executive Director of the PURPLE MARTIN CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION, Erie, Pa. His informative talk included the statistics from GPS monitoring Purple Martin migration. One Martin flew over 300 miles in a day. One flew 1300 miles in a week. WOW!! Our thanks to Larrv & Laura Yothers, Paul Toth. Carol Saurers, Ed Maluke, George Nahmi, Judy & Larry Hunter and other members for making MartinFest a huge success.


House Bill #222 introduced by our State Representative Steven Dyer is supposed to he voted on this Fall. House Bill #222 is to make the PORTAGE LAKES AREA-- THE PURPLE  MARTIN CAPITAL OF 0HI0. We hope all rnembers will call Representative Dyer’s office at 614-466-1790 or your state representative & senator and express your support for the measure. We thank you in advance for your interest in making this happen. 14 other states have Purple Martin capitals. Ohio does not currentlv have one. When this passes, we are going to have a big party. Perhaps we can get the governor to come to the Portage Lakes and sign the legislation. Wouldn’t that be neat? A special thanks to Dr. Ben Pearson for plugging the resolution at a meeting with house and Senate members in Columbus.


Visit our web site at http://members.tripod.com/sassyoh_4/ portagelakespurplemartins  (or Google Portage Lakes Purple Martin Association and scroll down to it). Margaret Frost does an outstanding of creating and maintaining our web site. Paul Toth contributes pictures. Jim Cummings addresses envelopes for the newsletter and Jim Frost stuffs and mails them. It is a gargantuan job lessened as member E- Mail addresses come in thereby saving a great deal of money for postage also!


One of Mother Nature’s spectacular events is the PURPLE MARTIN’S PREMIGRATORY ROOST. We are very fortunate to have one in our backyard-- Nimisila Reservoir is the site. You can see the Martins on the peninsula located north of the Campground parking lot about an hour before dark. They congregate in the thousands on the stanchion and wires. For the awe inspiring experience of watching them in the reeds before dark, you must be in a boat. From August 7th to Sept 1 the PLPMA is using this event as a fundraiser. We have permission from Bruce Carpenter Park Manager, to use the guest dock as our point of departure. It is located in the Nimisila Campground. Reservations are required. The cost is $20.00 for non members ($5.00 of which makes you a member) and $15.00 for current members. The pontoon boat has a limited capacity of 12 people (10 & 2 crew). We cannot collect money at the dock. The boat leaves at 7:00 and returns at dark.  For reservations call Larry Hunter 330-644-1540. Send check or money order to


4737 Bickford Ave

Akron, OH 44319


For those wishing to camp out, Nimisila Campgound is available. Call Portage Lakes State Park for

reservations & fees:                            330-644-2220


We urge all that are interested in birding to see this spectacle. Words are inadequate to describe 5000 birds flying so close you can reach out and touch them (but don’t). There are so many birds that they appear on Doppler Radar. If you can get Channel 3.2 on your TV set, they appear as a bright red dot at between 6 and 6:12 am. Other birds that we see on the boat ride are Ospreys diving for fish arid Great Blue Herons quietly fishing. Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows and Eastern Kingbirds are commonly seen. On one occasion last year there was a migrating flock of Night Hawks.


In event of rain or high winds the boat ride will he cancelled and rescheduled. If rescheduling is not possible, your money will be refunded.

Once in a while a passenger is blessed by one of the birds. (You know what we mean). We suggest wearing old clothes and a hat.

Our thanks to following members who have volunteered to pilot and crew the boat: Phil Pinnow, Glen Sheets, Paul Toth, Jim Cummings, Torn Burge, and Larry Hunter.


Editor’s note:   For you getting this newsletter by e-mail, we are unable to give you an e-mail map but the campground and boat dock is off Christman which runs into E. Caston next to Nimisia reservoir or you can “Google” a map.


As the Martin Season winds down, it is time to play America’s favorite fun game- clean up, fix up and store all of the gourds and poles. We will start Sept l0th. . We meet at the Barn at New State Park off Manchester Road at 6:30. We will be cleaning gourds so wear old clothes. Sunday. Sept 13th at 2:00 we will meet at the State Mill Road site and remove all poles and gourds. Monday, Sept 14th we meet at the Barn and clean, wash and store gourds. It takes a lot of volunteers to create and maintain a program as large as the PORTAGE LAKES PURPLE MARTIN ASSOCIATION. We have been blessed with a core group of dedicated individuals that work many hours to support the propagation of Purple Martins. We hope more people will volunteer their time and talents to expand on what has been accomplished thus far.


A special thanks to Dan Kramer. ODNR - Division of Wildlife, Jamey Graham, ODNR-Division of Wildlife, Bruce Carpenter. Park Manager, Portage Lakes State Park, ODNR- Division of Parks & Recreation, Pat Rydquist and Maureen McGinty


Next year the plan is to erect 3 more poles at the State Mill Road site. This site has become a local attraction for many to observe and enjoy both Purple Martins and Tree Swallows. The additional poles will bring the total to twelve with 144 gourds.


Also, we plan to erect 12 more Tree Swallow poles. This will bring our total to 38.


We are convinced that our approach to insect control by letting the birds crop off the excess insect populations really works. We estimate that it takes 22 pounds of bugs a day every day to feed all of our nesting pairs and their babies. WHEN YOU SEE THE THOUSANDS of Purple Martins at Nimisila, think in terms of the 500 pounds of bugs a day that it takes to feed all of these birds. Remember that the insects that are devoured by Martins are the egg laying adult insects. Destroy those and you destroy the next generation. It is no wonder that Summit County was one of the last to be infested by emerald ash borers. We have done all of this without chemical sprays that foul our air and water. This is important work that we are doing. Future generations will marvel at what we have accomplished and benefit from our experience.   


                               Editor’s note- Once in a while, an individual comes along who’s willing to take on a Herculean challenge and to work tirelessly to preserve a piece of what many of us treasure above all else--a healthy vital environment for succeeding generations to experience. One such individual is Larry Hunter.  His seemingly boundless energy is reflected in this newsletter and at the sites all over the Portage Lakes where we see thriving purple martin colonies.   HATS OFF TO THIS “ONE IN A MILLION INDIVIDUAL” Are butterflies next? Stay tuned.