Whitewater’s New Purple Martin House

Submitted by Sherry Stanek, Urban Forestry Commission Chair

Last year money was raised to purchase a large Purple Martin house to be placed in a park in Whitewater. As it happened, the late Jerry Schoen, a long time bird lover, bird artist and enthusiast offered to donate the money to purchase the first one and did so.  Unfortunately Jerry didn’t live to see his generous gift to the City of Whitewater realized.  The house was erected by city staff in April of 2020 at Minnieska Park on the south side of the city along a beautiful walking/biking trail there.  Scouts, early Purple Martin arrivals, found the house this spring and two pairs have made it their homes, built nests and have added 6 new Purple Martins to the population!!  As you may know, these birds are very beneficial as they eat thousands of insects. They’ve suffered habitat loss because their natural nesting sites would be in hollow trees which are much harder to find as farms and cities overtook the countryside.


As it happens, some of the nearby neighbors, Bill and Sue Chandler, took a keen interest in the new house and have volunteered countless hours monitoring it, keeping sparrows out and allowing our first two pairs to thrive.  What follows is a report by Bill on the current state of affairs and I know you’ll enjoy it!  We are still raising funds for another Purple Martin house and if you are at all interested in seeing this happen, or if you’re interested in getting involved in our local environment, please feel free to contact any member of the Whitewater Urban Forestry Commission.  We meet the fourth Monday of each month at 4:30 p.m., virtually for the last few months, but hopefully in the not too distant future, we will be all safely together again!

Bill Chandler notes: This is the first year a new Martin house has been installed in a Whitewater park in a number of years.  It is located on the Trippe Lake walking trail.  Luckily a scout arrived and was joined eventually by six adult Martins.  Two nests were built containing six eggs which hatched.  As of July 27, 2020, a nest of four have fledged and the other two Martin chicks will fledge shortly.  Whitewater looks forward to their return next summer. Below is a comical report on this year’s progress.

Bill also shared the following:

Hello Martin Lovers of Whitewater,

As I was lowering the 5-star Whitewater Martin mansion to check on the chicks, they flew a paper airplane toward me.  I deciphered from their chicken scratching that they are demanding to not leave their nests.  The birds of a feather have flocked together by throwing away the keys to their apartments into the nearby pond.  They say they are enjoying the pandemic quarantine because they have a cozy nest replete with warm companions and hot meals delivered frequently.  Meals on Wheels is now renamed Air Mail Meals..

The chicks, aka squatters, are demanding they get internet by converting the roost above their Ritz Carlton Resort into an antennae so they can receive broadband in order to attend school virtually during the pandemic and watch their favorite soap operas called One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and May the Bird of Paradise Fly up your Nose. Evidently, their eagle eyes must be getting tired reading comic books called Flights of Fancy regarding their pre-historic relatives the pterodactyls.

Typical of some teenagers they are not keeping their room clean. I told them they need to pick up after themselves, but they retorted by insisting on maid service.  Where are the parents?  I am only the landlord of this fly-by-night operation, so it is not my place to swoop in. So, using my eagle eye, I shouted to an adult bird flying high above within the flock if he/she was the parent of the flagrant fledglings.  I was fluffed off with a wing-tip pointing at all the rest of the birds in the flock.

As evening was approaching, I served them Birds Eye vegetables for supper prior to ” raising the roof” on their condo complex to tuck them in for the night.  As I was beaming them up, I overheard a comment from baby Huey, the big brother in the nest of four, say that his three sisters are hogging the covers, staying up late choo-chooing, and having pillow fights causing goose down to fly all over.  Also, I noticed a green glow of cell phones shining from both nests.  Evidently this contraband is being used for tweeting on Twitter amongst these teenage jailbirds.  On the fly, I looked up their lease to confirm that after 10 p.m. bird-calls are to cease.  If that was not the last feather, I smelled cigarette smoke wafting from the low rent one-bedroom unit. This is also a lease violation.  Clearly the fowl have run afoul.  Now I am not a chicken-pooper and I prefer not going on a wild goose chase, but this is for the birds. The fowl have run afoul. Do we settle for a bird in the hand is better than one in the bush or do we start charging rent?

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