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Buckeye Martinfest celebrating purple martins

6/19/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Portage Lakes Purple Martin Association members set up and maintain gourds that the birds use as nests.
Photo: Dale Dong
Zachary Habib carries a bird for inspection at a past Buckeye Martinfest.
Photo: Lew Stamp
COVENTRY — Purple martins will fly back into focus at Buckeye Martinfest, set for June 28 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the North Reservoir boat launch ramp on State Mill Road.

The 13th annual event, presented by the Portage Lakes Purple Martin Association, will offer a close-up look at purple martins, which association members said help control the mosquito and insect population around the Portage Lakes.

Martinfest has been organized to promote the mission of the association, which was formed in 2000 to attract purple martins to the area, according to the association’s chief adviser, Larry Hunter.

Hunter said purple martins are migratory species that fly to South America for the winter and return to their nesting sites around March and April. The birds perform aerial acrobatics in large groups and eat thousands of insects each day, making them a natural form of pest control, thus reducing the need for insecticides in the area.

Association members help purple martins flourish by setting up and maintaining gourds that the birds use as nests, and feeding them scrambled eggs tossed into the air during cold weather, when bugs tend to be less available, according to Hunter.

MartinFest activities include displays about purple martins, as well as an opportunity to get a close look at the birds. During the event, visitors can peek into the gourds, which are man-made nests, when they are lowered, inspected and treated for pests. The nests will contain both babies and eggs.

In addition, young birds will be banded, which offers visitors an opportunity to handle them, and visitors can participate in feeding the birds by flipping cooked egg bits up into the air from a frying pan.

“This is a short event, but it’s a nice opportunity to see the birds up close,” said Hunter.

Also participating in Martinfest will be representatives from a variety of organizations with displays, including: Fran Kitchen with baby animals, Summit Metro Parks, Lake Metroparks and the Akron-Summit County Public Library.

Hunter said the event, which last year attracted about 200 people, also will offer visitors a chance to learn how to bring a science program about the birds into schools.

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 its efforts to protect and foster purple martins, he said. Hunter said one pole set up with a number of gourds costs $850. The cost of the boat ride is $20 per person. To make a reservation, call Hunter at 330-644-1540.

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