Last Update: 6/26/2017 5:01:00 PM
Bill Uhrich: Visit to purple martins colony is always a treat
On Friday, Reading Eagle correspondent Kimberly Marselas wrote a story about 88-year-old Kenny Miller and his Mohrsville purple martin colony that he has maintained for over 40 years.
Kenny has hit the sweet spot for purple martin attraction with the just-right amount of open space around his property.
Back in 1995, I wrote and photographed a story on Kenny and his martins, and over the years since have tried to stop by every year to admire his set-up and the many martins he attracts.
I don't believe there's a larger colony of purple martins in the county.
It was fun to stop back and meet Kenny again and photograph the martins for the recent story.
I've known some birders who have tried to attract martins to their backyards for years with no success.
The purple martin is a fickle species.
One local birder has built the houses and the gourds and has even tried playing purple martin calls every spring on a loudspeaker to attract the birds with no luck.
Matt Wlasniewski has similarly tried to attract purple martins to his home for the past 20 years and has finally found some success this year.
A pair has taken up residence in one of the gourds in his yard.
He had nearly given up, even though he has seen purple martin flybys, mostly young birds, during the August migration.
He was excited to find two eggshells beneath one of the gourds because it would have represented a hatching, but on a closer look, he thinks that either a blue jay or a house wren might have gotten to them.
He's hoping for another nesting try with more aggressively defensive martins.
Rudy Keller has discovered what may be the largest colony of bobolinks in Berks.
The bobolink is a handsome grassland bird that has fluctuated throughout the years with the rise and fall of pasture land in the county.
Traditionally, the best bobolink areas have been along Monument Road in Windsor Township, but Rudy has been monitoring a Douglass Township field loaded with the birds.
"It's retired pasture (the cattle having been sold) in which grasses are mixed with a great diversity of meadow flowers, or weeds, depending on your point of view," Rudy writes. "The hay it produces is considered fit only for growing mushrooms, so it tends to get cut later than the nitrogen-pumped monocultures of timothy or orchard grass, whose tender hay the horse owners prefer."
That later cutting is important to grassland species, and early hay cutting is one of the factors in the decline of our pheasant population.
The birds need to mate, nest and raise their young before the hay is cut, destroying the nests.
"We were watching up to eight male bobolinks at a time chasing each other in flight displays, no longer a common sight in this county," Rudy said.
Rudy counted over 20 total males and females.
"A mile away, suburbia grows," he added darkly.
And that's another reason for the general decline of grassland species.
Earl Poole during the mid-20th century found the bobolink regularly occurring near Douglassville, Fleetwood, Walnuttown and Shartlesville. The bobolink was also found nesting at Lake Ontelaunee after 1929 and well into the next decade.
It's always a thrill to see both purple martins and bobolinks in Berks.
Contact Bill Uhrich: 610-371-5090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.