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Spring is for the birds

Purple martins have arrived in Logan County

In a sure sign that spring has sprung, the purple martins have returned to the northern hemisphere.

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ABOVE: Jack Norviel checks one of the seven birdhouses he has erected at his County Road 13 home for purple martins. Mr. Norviel was the first in Logan County to report to the Purple Martin Conservation Association the arrival of the birds, which migrate to South America for the winter. FRONT PAGE: A purple martin sits on a perch after returning to begin its colony just before sunset Thursday. EXAMINER PHOTOS | REUBEN MEES

It is an annual phenomenon that has fascinated bird-watchers since the days of the American Indians.

In Logan County this year, Jack Norviel, who has erected seven large birdhouses at his County Road 13 home to attract a colony, was the first to report an arrival to the Purple Martin Conservation Association.

The first bird arrived a week ago today and five others have reached their northern destination since then, Mr. Norviel said. But far more will show up as the weather warms.

After spending the winter in South America, the strongest of the small birds, known as “scouts,” make their way north to lay claim to the best units of what are essentially apartment complexes built exclusively for the social animals that form large colonies for their nesting season.

In the coming weeks, the younger birds — the “subadults” — will also make their way north to fill the rooms in the birdhouses.

Each of Mr. Norviel’s birdhouses contains a dozen units with four gourds beneath each complex for additional nesting pairs and their offspring.

American Indians reportedly hung hollowed out gourds from trees to create habitats for the birds, according to information from the conservation group.

“From what they say, Indians used to hang gourds. They had them way back then,” Mr. Norviel said.

But the local bird-watcher — inspired by a fascination with birds and building — has only been working on his colony since 1999 when a friend offered him some cedar shingles from a demolition project.

“I always liked birds since I was a kid and I like building stuff; so I thought it would be a fun project to build a birdhouse,” Mr. Norviel said. “A friend had some cedar shingles and I thought I had been wanting to do this for a while.”

In the first year, the initial birdhouse — which is still the first to be hoisted up from its own wintering spot nearer the ground each spring — drew three nesting pairs. That grew to seven in the second year.

The full story is available in Saturday's Examiner. CLICK HERE to subscribe.

 

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