16 August 2010

Martins Gathering Noted in Early 1900s at Midtown Omaha

Photographs taken by a Nebraska naturalist indicate that Purple Martin gatherings occurred in the Omaha area more than 100 years ago.

Among the many glass negatives of the Frank H. Shoemaker Collection at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Special Collections and Archives, with the two given here showing their typical behavior of gathering on the wires. This is typical behavior for the species near their midtown Omaha roost.

Purple Martins. The fall convention; image number A113. Both images courtesy of Archives & Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries.

Purple Martins assembling for autumn migration; image number B0141 and B0142

There is no date given for any of the photographs. The locality is noted as Omaha, Douglas County.

Based upon the image numbers, it is probable that the pictures were taken circa 1901 or 1902.

Shoemaker was an Omaha resident from 1895 to 1911. He lived in the midtown area, with one regular place of occurrence at the 2900 block of Dewey Street, where there was the "bird room" at the Van Sant residence. His writings includes accounts of birds noted at Hanscom Park and forays to Childs Point.

The home shown in the photograph is very distinctive with its multiple chimneys, roof line adornments and distinctive lighting rod.

These sorts of chimneys are still present at a few historic homes in the Blackstone area of midtown, and may further indicate where the photographs were taken.

The photos indicate martins gathered in urban Omaha more than a century ago, and visually conveys the occurrence which continues so prominently in midtown, as well known for 2008-2010 at the Nebraska Medical Center campus.