Monthly Archives: October 2014

Portage Lakes Area Purple Martins



An historic moment is about to happen in the Portage Lakes.  The biggest thing to happen to the Portage Lakes since the Ohio-Erie Canal.  House Bill 404 passed through the Ohio House of Representatives on April 2, 2014.  HB designates the Portage Lakes Area as the PURPLE MARTIN CAPITAL OF OHIO.


This all started back in the year 2000 when at a Portage Lakes Advisory Council meeting, one of the members said, “We ought to do something about the bugs.”  I said, “Put up Purple Martin Houses.” They said, “Handle it.”  That was the start of the Portage Lakes Purple Martin Association.


Over the years we have grown from one nesting pair in 2000 that fledged 5 babies, to 212 nesting pairs that fledged 744 babies in 2013.  This year because of the terrible weather during migration we had 144 nesting pairs that fledged 649.


What a journey it has been since those early days.  The encouragement of then State Representative Mary Taylor (now Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor) was very appreciated and yes, she has fed Purple Martins by flipping small pieces of scrambled eggs in the air.


To get any bill through the Ohio House is not an easy task.  It is hard work.  Many hours were spent by our State Representatives Marilyn Slaby and Anthony DeVitis.  Their diligence in making this happen was awesome.


After passage in the House, the bill was forwarded to the Ohio Senate.  Our State Senator, Frank LaRose, took up the challenge to get this bill passed in the Senate.  In the meantime, Manchester Middle School’s English and Science teachers saw an educational opportunity for their students.  The Eighth Grade English teachers had their students write an essay on why the Portage Lakes should be the PURPLE MARTIN CAPITAL OF OHIO and the Science teacher dedicated an entire day to educate the students about the importance of using birds to control insect populations without using chemical sprays.  The students also learned about how our government works.


When Senator Frank LaRose heard about what the school was doing, he suggested we have an essay contest and the winner would use the essay as a testimonial at the senate committee hearing. Representative Marilyn Slaby, being a former school teacher, saw a great learning experience for the students and she, along with Representative Anthony DeVitis volunteered to judge the essays.  Cecelia Speck won the contest and did an excellent presentation at the Senate Committee hearing.  HB 404 needs one more committee hearing, pass the Senate and signed by the Governor before it is official that we are the PURPLE MARTIN CAPITAL OF OHIO.


The Portage Lakes Purple Martin Association’s mission statement is to PROPAGATE PURPLE MARTINS and to EDUCATE the public on the benefit of these birds.  Being the PURPLE MARTIN CAPITAL OF OHIO is a big deal for the Portage Lakes Area not only for the amount of birds we have for insect control (the resident population of birds consumes about 30 pounds of bugs a day), but also they are a great bird to educate people about wildlife.  Our BUCKEYE MARTINFEST had over 125 participants.  Although it is a relatively short event, the people have a wonderful time.  It is a memorable experience.


As usual the Nimisila Twilight Boat Rides were a sellout.  This is a wonderful experience for all of the participants.  This is our club’s only fundraiser and since we have to spend money on the Mason Dairy Barn at Portage Lakes State Park, we decided at our last meeting to raise the fare from $20 to $25 per person.  We also decided to hire an intern to operate the boat on the even numbered days and club members operate the boat on odd numbered days.  We are looking for volunteers to run the boat. Reservations for the ride will be taken by Judy and Larry Hunter, Tel.: 330-644-1540.


It is with sorrow that we announce the passing of three of our members:  Ed Maluke, Jim Halas and Harry Ashley.  In our earlier years Ed helped build the Martin housing that we still use today.  Jim enjoyed feeding the birds at our State Mill Road site with Rosemary Donatell.  One day Jim reported to Rosemary that there were three Tree Swallows on the ground.  Rosemary called me and together Jim and I managed to catch the birds and put them back in the gourd to fledge when they got older.  The Halas family asked that in lieu of flowers a donation be made to the Portage Lakes Purple Martin Association.  A pole at the State Mill Road site will be dedicated in memory of Jim Halas.


Harry Ashley was a special guy.  He was perhaps the best Carp fisherman.  Every evening he fished for carp at North Reservoir.  After we put up the Martin Houses at State Mill Road, Harry and his fishing buddies enjoyed watching the birds. He often pointed out how nice it was to fish without being plagued by bugs.


Harry and his friends guarded the site from vandals.  (Woe to anyone who tried to mess with the Martin Houses.)  In 2002 we had four poles at North Reservoir when a storm with winds up to 60 mph struck and blew down all four poles.  Within 10 seconds after the poles went over, I got a call from Harry that the poles were down.  I couldn’t believe anyone was out in that storm.  Luckily, this was in August and all the birds had fledged.  Harry went on our Nimisila Twilight boat ride and enjoyed it very much.


As time goes on and we look back at our history, it is all the people doing what needed to be done that has brought us to where we are today.  When we started, nobody could have envisioned how successful we would be fifteen years later.  It is remarkable.  We have truly made a difference in the quality of life of the Portage Lakes Area.


Now it is on to 2015.  Hopefully, the weather will not ruin our projections. Next year we should have 193 nesting pairs and we should fledge 812 babies.  Or so the prognosticator says.


Our officers for 2015 are:


President                   Paul Toth

Vice President           Chuck Seeley

Secretary                   Carol Saurer

Treasurer                   Judy Hunter


The Martins are now in Brazil enjoying the weather, but it won’t be long and the cycle will repeat as it does each spring.


Hope we have a mild winter.


Larry Hunter

Congratulations once again to all of you on this great recognition!


Report Reveals how Climate will Affect our Songbirds

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Audubon report and how climate  will affect the songbirds, have a look at the latest development…….read more.

Cornell University Home Study Course

As the Fall season begins and the purple martin season comes to an end, why not consider challenging yourself to learning more about our feathered friends. Cornell offers home study courses on line on various topics. Just think, you don’t have to travel to New York to take this course. Have a look at their course offerings at :

Cornell Home Study Courses

There is a requirement for this course in that you will need the “Handbook of Bird Biology 2nd edition”  to use as a guide. The third edition will be printed in 2015 and the course will reflect the newest text.

Join Feeder Watch

Now that the purple martins and tree swallows have left, it’s time to turn our attention to other passerines in our backyard that are in need of our assistance. Why not join Bird Studies Canada Project entitled “Bird Feeder Watch”.Read more……..


Ontario Fledgling Results

47 sites have reported their purple martin results so far and the results can be found at

Ontario Fledgling Results

Ellis Bird Farm’s geolocator martin makes it back again

The Ellis Bird Farm have deployed geolocator martins from their location more than once. Check out what they found out….read more

Liber Ero Blog

Dr. Kevin Fraser talks about his work with geolocators on various species of birds.

Liber Ero Blog

Dr. Bridget Stutchbury Captures Hooded Warbler with Geolocator

The Walpole Island Purple Martin Association looks forward to recapturing its deployed geolocator harnessed purple martins next Spring, 2015 .

Meanwhile, Dr. Bridget shows how the hooded  warbler was captured, processed and the geolocator removed to determine where its been as part of her research on the warbler’s wintering grounds.

Check out this you tube video:

Geolocators track Songbirds