Purple martins peeking out of nesting cavities (photos by Chris Gardner).
The Tejon Ranch Conservancy has wrapped up its 2015 purple martin survey season. There are four main ridges on the Ranch that provide optimal habitat for nesting purple martins (Cordon, Middle, Winters, and Tunis). With the help of two of our dedicated volunteers we were able to conduct multiple visits to each of the four ridges throughout May, June and July, allowing us to track the nesting phenology of the martins over a three month period and get a better estimate on the number of breeding pairs in our survey areas. This year we found a total of 23 breeding pairs. The nesting period was staggered among the pairs. We found nests that had fledglings taking their first flights next to nests that still had very young nestlings still in the tree cavities quietly chirping for food.
|Adult male purple martin holding a large insect (photo by Chris Gardner).|
We witnessed the dynamics of purple martin families and the care provided to their fledglings as they learned to fly. A tremendous amount of purple martin noise is the first sign that you have stumbled upon a family group and we witnessed the following behavioral pattern each time. The patriarch perched on the tip of a snag, calling constantly while his fledglings learned to fly around him. The matriarch soared in the air around her kids, the grace and beauty of her flight contrasted with the uncoordinated flight of the young. Her soft call notes acted as guidance. Slowly the fledglings would tire and one by one join their papa on the snag. As the last ones came in for a rest the male’s call shifted into full song as he welcomed his mate back to the perch. As she landed, she joined her mate in song. At songs end, the family would fall quiet as they all rested and watched over the canyon. But as with toddlers of all species, they would not sit still for long. Soon the fledglings were off once again, mama following behind and papa chirping from the sidelines.
|(photo by Chris Gardner).|
Last year I wrote a blogpost on the natural history of the purple martin. This year I want to showcase some amazing photos taken by our outstanding volunteer, Chris Gardner.