28 June 2010

Seasonal Martin Phantasmagoria Underway Midtown

On a late June evening, rather than continuing an indoor activity, it seemed appropriate to bicycle forth to see if the most appreciated birds of Omaha were gathering together. My expectation was correct in very way, as the wonder of the Purple Martins midtown was once again underway along Farnam Street, above Saddle Creek, which is a thoroughfare in Omaha.

Birds on the wires, along 41st Street. These were mostly European Starlings.

The martins - along with congregations of grackles and starlings - were in flight about a site which has provided such a grand sight for bird watchers.

After a day of heat and humidity, the Saturday evening was a spectacle as it always is when watching the martins. And rather than a simple sky of mundane blue, there were clouds and an immense portrayal of color as a backdrop on the horizon.

The martins about were all airborne, swirling and floating in their birdly manner. Anymore comment would be worthless on this event, as the human language in no manner can convey the thoughts and perspectives of the airborne martins, which much of the time look down upon the human landscape.

Sounds of the gathering were readily carried across the urban scape, as the first cool tinge of the pending night was expressed by a soft breeze upon the hill-slope below 40th street, and a block or two south of Dodge Street, with its inconsiderate traffic.

Midtown martin sky on a Saturday evening.

The Purple Martins - exquisite denizens of the limitless sky - eventually descended to their now well-known roost, first discovered in 2008 by an attentive bird watcher. Action included the regular motions, now somewhat known since their gathering has been seen and documented in two previous years. When they swoop around and then dart in from the west to land in the trees, their antics - and from a view on the scene - superb flight skills are so expressive and timely as to present one of the top wonders of the bird world of Omaha.

There were about 500 martins present, along with a few hundred grackles, a bunch of starlings and a few of those usual bugeaters of Omaha sky, chimney swifts.

During the time of watching, the spectacle was indicative of what would continue, what would expand to be a grand sight in subsequent weeks. Starting with this day, the martins clan will only increase and each day convey a most distinctive spectacle, a relative phantasmagoria of their times, and for those people which make a proper decision to watch with attention.

While at the right street on Saturday evening, my shirt sleeve was adorned by a splat from some bird above. It was a privilege and an honor to get the first mark of the 2010 season, being one of the three martineers. The other two will soon be on the scene - one time or another, and then yet again because we enjoy the event, freely expressed by martins, indifferent to rating, but most concerned with survival and having a safe haven.

The butterfly decals on the windows of the hazardous walkway still remain, but the banners which help to inform the flying birds of a threat, are not in place.

Incoming helicopter. The flight path is now directly east of the bird roost.

While watching the goings on, the medical helicopter arrived and dominated the setting as it came in to land. It alighted at a different place, just east of the medical towers, and actually within the range where martins and other birds swirl around the buildings before they roost, based upon previous observations. How this significant situation might influence the Purple Martin gathering is not known, but a helicopter landing amidst a swarm of birds would not be a good situation.

The martins have arrived at midtown, establishing by three days, the first date for this congregation, in comparison to their known arrival in 2009. Many wonderful days will follow, and certainly be appreciated by many whom enjoy the wonder they present in a spectacle unique in mid-America. Perhaps this year, the phenomena will get even more appreciation and recognition, with more visitors from the region. This event deserves a documentary!