Sewanee got pounded with rain yesterday. A hard day for birds that feed on aerial insects. Late in the afternoon, the skies cleared and dozens of purple martins swarmed the radio antenna pole near Lake Cheston. They circled in noisy groups, feeding then swirling in to roost.
In the eastern U. S., martins are almost entirely dependent on humans for nest cavities, a dependence that goes back to the days of Native American agriculturalists who erected poles with hollow gourds for the birds. Martins chase away crows, so this was a mutualistic arrangement. The birds got homes; the humans got protection for their corn crop.
In 1831, John James Audubon noted: “Almost every country tavern has a martin box on the upper part of its sign-board; and I have observed that the handsomer the box, the better does the inn generally prove to be.”
I think Lake Cheston could use a handsome box. Perhaps a class project for the spring?