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Hi Y'all,

Purple Martins are simply finished breeding in Florida and are starting
to gather now - like the swallows do "up north" in July.  Gradually they
gather in larger flocks and finally go to very large communal roosts.
And then one day most of them head off to Brazil via western Cuba and
the Yucatan, then down through Central America, through the Andes by the
same pass that the Swallow-tailed Kites use, then on into Brazil.  The
Ponchatrain roost seems to go via the Yucatan.  A year or so ago by the
third week of June we had a large communal roost in the shopping centre,
Village on Venetian Bay.  They came in at dusk filling the trees in the
parking lot.  One could sit at a small outdoor cafe and enjoy a brat
with a quaff and watch the Martins coming in to roost.  It's quite a
spectacle.  We couldn't quite figure out why they chose trees in an over
lighted parking lot but I saw much the same thing years ago in Greentree
Shopping Center at dusk.  Those were carrotwood trees which have since
been replaced.  The Purple Martin Society of Collier County of which I
am a member watches for signs of gathering flocks in June.  We try to
see which way they are going in the evening but they sometimes fly
north, then back south again.  Finally, if we're lucky we locate the
huge communal roost.  For a few years it was in a tall stand of trees by
a condo but the gulf front condo owners reacted just as one would expect
- they did everything to try and frighten the birds off.  First they
trimmed the trees back, then finally one year they cut the trees down.
We've speculated on why they don't or can't use the parking lot trees at
Village on Venetian Bay now.  Did the patron's of Maxwell's restaurant
complain about finding bird droppings on their cars so the shopping
center management did something to drive off the birds?  Or kill them?
We haven't found out yet but the birds just suddenly disappeared last
year.
        Bill Dietrich, a Naples resident who is the glue that holds the
PMS of CC together is very knowledgable on the subject of Martins.  He
is featured in the Stokes book on Purple Martins, and is the person who
put up and maintains the huge colony behind the Extension building on
Immokalee Rd.  He keeps incredibly detailed records.  Purple Martins are
his passion so if you want to know more about them, or have a question,
I'll send you his email.
        There are a few stragglers out at the Extension Service building
but those that have hatched recently have already died or will soon.
They won't make it.  They should be fledged now or very soon in order to
survive.  This year has been bad because of the drought which has kept
the insect food way down.  Now that the Martins at this colony are being
banded we should have even more information on them.  There are so many
questions.
        So the short answer is - no it isn't an early migration.

Vera Fitz-Gerald
Naples, FL
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