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Buckeye Martinfest flying high

6/27/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

A crowd gathers around the nest pole located at the North Reservoir Boat Launch Ramp on State Mill Road to get a better view of the gourds and the purple martins inside them.
Stow resident Zachary Habib carries a bird for inspection at last year’s Buckeye Martinfest.
Photos: Lew Stamp
COVENTRY — The Portage Lakes Purple Martin Association reports last year its members fledged a record 710 birds. The results of that banner year will be on display this year during the 12th annual Buckeye Martinfest, slated for June 29 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the North Reservoir Boat Launch Ramp on State Mill Road.

Martinfest is organized to promote the mission of the association, which was formed in 2000 to help purple martins feed, breed and interact with the environment, according to the association’s chief adviser, Larry Hunter.

According to the association’s website, purple martins are migratory species that fly to South America for the winter and return to their nesting sites usually at the end of March and throughout April. The birds perform aerial acrobatics in large groups, and they eat thousands of insects each day, making them a natural form of pest control and reducing the need for insecticides around the Portage Lakes.

Hunter explained the association works to encourage the birds’ presence in the area for both aesthetic and practical reasons. Association members help the purple martins thrive in the area by setting up and maintaining gourds that the birds use as nests, and feeding them scrambled eggs tossed into the air during cold weather.

Hunter said the Portage Lakes Purple Martin Association is succeeding in its mission to increase the bird’s presence in the area. When the group first started, it had one nesting pair and five babies. This year, there are 201 nests with up to five eggs or babies, and another 46 nests that may yet be filled with more purple martins.

“This year, we are projecting 850 babies, and that number could reach 1,000 if the 46 nests get filled,” said Hunter.

The association’s activities and the birds, babies and nests will be on display during the Buckeye Martinfest.

In addition, association members and Metro Parks, Serving Summit County naturalists will be available to answer questions about the birds; the Akron-Summit County Public Library will have displays and games, as well as prizes for children; and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Friends of Natural Area and Preserves will offer an exhibit.

“Purple martins are the perfect bird to introduce the public to wildlife, and the public can see these birds, their nests, eggs, babies at various stages of development all in one place at Martinfest,” said Hunter.

He added that visitors to the event will see the gourds lowered and the nests and birds checked and treated for pests. Visitors may hold the birds while the nests are inspected and treated.

Visitors to Martinfest also will get to try their hand at flipping scrambled eggs into the air to feed the birds.

“It is so cool to see this,” said Hunter. “There are about 150 birds that will be diving for pieces of the eggs. It is unbelievable, and it is something that appeals to the young and the old.”

Hunter added the State Mill Road location is becoming a destination site for people who want to see purple martins up close.

Another way to see these birds is through the association’s purple martin twilight boat rides on the Nimisila Reservoir Aug. 1-31. The rides offer participants a chance to “experience the amazing spectacle of 5,000-10,000 purple martins swirling together.”

The boat rides are a fundraiser for the association in their efforts to protect and foster purple martins. The cost is $20 per person. To make a reservation, call Hunter at 330-644-1540.

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