The Purple Martin Connection

East of the Rocky Mountains, Purple Martins almost exclusively nest in birdhouses provided by humans. This bond between man and bird did not always exist, of course. It evolved over centuries naturally and likely by accident. Now that Purple Martins are so dependent upon us for their housing, it becomes incumbent upon us to foster this uniquely beautiful relationship. Let us briefly explore how this bond became so strong, and examine the opportunity it gives us to step into our roles as stewards and caretakers – rather than ravagers – of the natural world.

Originally, Purple Martins nested in abandoned woodpecker holes, decaying trees, or wherever they could find a cavity big enough to contain their nest. Native Americans initiated the human connection with the birds. Gourds were hollowed out and hung from poles or tree branches to cure, to be later used as water vessels. The people were probably surprised when first they saw a pair of steel-blue martins making a cozy abode in their beverage ware!

Later, European colonists and frontiersmen took note of the ties between Purple Martins and the Natives. In 1831, a man named Alexander Wilson observed, “Even the solitary Indian seems to have a particular respect for this bird.” [“Thanks to Native Americans, Purple Martins Underwent a Complete Tradition Shift” – James R. Hill, III] The Native Americans may have nurtured the relationship with Purple Martins because of the massive amounts of insects they eat. (It is important to understand, though, that mosquitoes are not on the martins’ menu; that myth was an invention of unscrupulous marketers trying to sell more birdhouses!) It is also quite possible that the Natives simply enjoyed the aerobatic feats of these nimble flyers, as many people do today.

As people expanded into the Purple Martins’ territory, there were fewer and fewer places for martins and other birds to nest. Luckily, people already knew how to provide homes for the martins, at least in a rudimentary fashion.

However, our encroachment continued, and the pressure on Purple Martin populations increased exponentially. Urban expansion, suburban sprawl, road building, deforestation, river damming, and many of our other activities nearly spelled the end for the enchanting, gregarious martins.

Finally, concerned citizens began to try to reverse the downward trend in the number of Purple Martins. New types of housing were developed, eventually evolving into the multi-unit bird apartments that can now be seen all across the eastern half of the United States and southeastern Canada. The designs and specifications of Purple Martin birdhouses continue to change as we learn more about these wonderful birds. The large, mansion-like houses, made of wood, plastic, aluminum, or some combination of these, supplanted the natural gourds as the favorites of Purple Martin landlords; but the gourds, like the martins themselves, are making a comeback. Many people spend days carving and curing gourds to hang from wires or mount on poles. The birdhouse manufacturers have also thrown their hats into the ring, producing durable, attractive artificial Purple Martin gourds that the birds seem to love.

The Purple Martin enthusiasts began to spread the word about the plight of the birds, and, over time, more and more people ventured into the realm of Purple Martin landlording. The number of martins nesting in the U.S. and Canada has rebounded significantly, though the population is still meager in comparison to its former size.

The prevalence of competitors like European Starlings and English House Sparrows, coupled with the effects of human society will prevent Purple Martins from reestablishing their former number, but there is no reason why they cannot have a robust and healthy population. Their fate is now in our hands. We, who initiated the Purple Martin Connection so long ago, can make all the difference.

How Often Have You Asked Yourself “Does the Law of Attraction Work?”

Does the Law of Attraction work is what everybody was asking a few years ago. After the mind- expanding film “The Secret” of Rhonda, Byrne everyone began to try to see if this incredible revelation to mankind was true or not. This law virtually states, that like attracts like and that you get what you think about, whether you want it or not!

Let me tell you of my first experience with the Law of Attraction. I decided to test myself on something “safe” and so decided not to try for a white Spanish-style villa overlooking the sea as was my dream, but to try to manifest some (believe it or not?) birds. I already had a couple of blackbirds and a solitary robin dropping in to pay me visits, but I decided, despite my huge silver-grey cat, which overseered the shady vines in my garden, that I would like to see all types of birds hopping and chattering near my window to keep me company. Does the law of attraction work I mean does it really work?” I kept asking myself? I just felt I had to find out for the sake of my sanity.

At breakfast, as I sat near the window that overlooks my garden, I tried to imagine all types of birds dodging each other for the crumbs that I had scattered on the table. My big fat grey cat, sat with me and watched. Days went by, and I was beginning to lose heart. I continuously counted the birds. Two blackbirds plus one robin made three. I must admit that my confidence in this law slowly began to ebb. I had read a story of a boy manifesting a feather, so why couldn’t I manifest a few birds? My only train of thought was, I know the law of attraction works for others but does the law of attraction work for me.? The cool spring turned into a scorching summer. Robin disappeared, and some swallows came to dip their wings in the marble bird-bath. Downhearted, I eventually got my thoughts off the birds.

With regards to the Law of Attraction, confusion can occur, because, so often, we are offering vibrations that we don’t realize we are offering. We truly believe we are thinking about something, (that is, offering a vibration about something, when, in actual fact, we are offering exactly the opposite vibration) In my example above, it was obvious that with my thought fixed on “Does the law of attraction work?” I was offering a vibration of doubt, despite my efforts to imagine flocks of birds swooping into the shade under the vines.

The other point is, that you get the balance of the essence of your thoughts. My thoughts were on birds, yes, but the balance of my thoughts were, in fact, on lack of birds! The majority of my thoughts were in opposition to my desire. Now one thing I have learnt about the Laws of Nature is this. If they are laws, they must be exact and consistent, otherwise they are not laws, and, if we want to stay in harmony with these laws, we must be consistent too. Halfheartedness is not enough.

If you asked me whether I found an answer to my question, Does the law of attraction work? I would say, yes, because since that experience, I have learnt that the essence of what I give my attention to, I get. I don’t say I am perfect but I am certainly beginning to see encouraging results.

Not the least being, one day, when I was telling a young friend of my experiment and emotionally excited about the birds I had hoped to “manifest,” a rare type of woodpecker swooped right down past the lower branches of the cherry tree, right in front of us, and stranger still, right past the my fat cat who was lazing in the sunshine. Its multicoloured blaze of colour defied all negation of a rare and magnificent experience. I often wondered, if that was the Universe telling me, if you do things properly, ie. if you play your part, I will play my part.

A Windy January Day in the Garden

The last few days have seen the garden shrouded in frosty stillness. But today I awoke to blue skies and a wind so blustery it was more reminiscent of a November day. Not having been able to do much in the garden because of the cold, I decided to venture out and see what needed doing.

The end of January is a slightly frustrating time in the year. The tips of spring bulbs poke their heads tantalisingly through the soil, shrubs are showing signs of life with tiny buds appearing and the solitary song of the resilient little robin is starting to be joined by a few other garden birds, optimistic of the early spring around the corner. But there is still a sense that the garden is slow to wake. It is a time for tidying and preparation.

As I enter the garden I notice loose sprigs of ivy hanging from the apple tree. A few weeks ago I had pulled up the ivy from the base of the tree as it had started to take over some of the main branches. Leaving ivy on the top of the tree for a few days means that as it starts to die off, it loosens its hold slightly on the bark of the tree and so is a bit easier to pull off. Having removed the last of the ivy, a clematis which grows up through the tree in spring becomes more visible and it is apparent that it needs tying in to the main branch of the tree to protect it from the strong winds.

I next look to my shrub roses and make sure that I have pruned them enough to prevent wind rock, especially on this particularly blustery day. Once I am satisfied that my roses are alright, I take my secateurs to a couple of the larger shrubs in the garden. Now is a good time to prune shrubs in your garden, when they are dormant and you can clearly see the shape of the plant and how you want it to be when pruned.

The day’s trimming finished I turn my attention to my herbaceous borders. They look a bit sorry for themselves at the moment as I have cut down all the dead growth from last year and they are now all but bare. It’s a good time to give the plants an early feed. I like to use an organic blood, fish and bone mix or bone meal. Spread a thin layer over the ground so that you get a good covering. I then like to cover the beds with a thick mulch of well rotted manure or compost. This will protect the young shoots from any frosts to come and help the fertiliser soak well into the soil, providing a kick start to the plants in spring. A couple of garden planters I have positioned in the middle of one of my border with conical topiary box have fallen over in the wind and need righting.

Other things you need to look out for on a particularly windy day are making sure that any new tree samplings are well attached to their supports so that they don’t break off in the wind. Check that covers on garden furniture are secure. Remove less heaving garden ornaments such as lanterns and wind chimes so that they don’t blow over and break. Check any fencing to make sure it is still secure and hasn’t become detached.

My last job on this windy day is to check my vegetable patch. Most of the beds are dug over and bare now. But I do have a couple of beds where brassicas are keeping us in healthy greens over the winter months. I particularly like black kale which grows well all winter, especially if you pick it from the crown of the plant. I also have a new variety of sprout growing. Flowering sprouts have a look of broccoli or tiny cabbages but taste as good as brussels and perhaps even sweeter. Having picked some of these and the kale for dinner, I empty out the last of my parsnips, grown in large tubs. The last ones may be a little small, but they will be nice and sweet when roasted.

Only thing left to do now is to put all my tools safely away in the shed, take off my muddy boots and light the wood burner. Umm and in an hour or so the house will be filled with the smell of roasting beef!