Travis Audubon hosted a Purple Martin Colony visit this past Saturday next to the historic home of Laura Joseph. Laura started the colony 25 years ago, the product of a lifelong love of the little birds. The colony is tended, and carefully documented with daily data, by a group of dedicated volunteers called "landlords". Steve, the "head honcho" of this effort, was in attendance to answer our questions and give us a peek at these interesting birds.
In February, the birds begin to arrive. The mating pairs will produce around 500 babies by mid-May, teach them to fly in the safety of the colony, then guide them to the larger migrating flock that draws thousands of sightseers each night to see them roost near Highland Mall.
Here in the colony, the landlords will first provide pine straw for nesting material. Then the houses are lowered daily so that every single nest can be cleaned, eggs and birds counted, and houses carefully tended to ensure that the hundreds of Purple Martins who visit the colony each year have the best possible chance at a good life during their time in Austin.
Laura not only allows us to descend on her garden next door and the colony, we were also graciously treated to tables full of sandwiches, cooling raspberry lemonade and water, and delightful Purple Martin cookies made by Moonlight Bakery. On a personal note, I have to say glazed sugar cookies often miss the boat. They taste underbaked, and the royal icing can be dry and flavorless. These were PERFECT! Delicately browned crisp cookies with just the right amount of playful purple icing. It was impossible to stop with just one, and several flew home with me.