Purple martins swarm in the sky in Old Town last year. Michael Pearce File photo
Purple martins swarm in the sky in Old Town last year. Michael Pearce File photo

Michael Pearce

The Eagle's outdoor reporter highlights the latest hunting, fishing and wildlife news.

Michael Pearce

City to allow purple martins to roost in Old Town

July 28, 2016 09:33 AM

UPDATED July 28, 2016 10:12 AM

It looks like the 20,000 purple martins currently roosting in a few trees in Old Town can rest easy. David McGuire and his city park’s crews, however, cannot.

In Saturday’s Eagle, McGuire, Wichita Park maintenance supervisor, said the city would consider trying to discourage the birds from roosting in about five or six trees between First and Douglas streets, just west of Joe’s Old Town Bar and Grill, on Washington Avenue. That’s the site where the birds roosted last year, as they amass and get ready to migrate to South America.

This week McGuire visited the site and wasn’t impressed with what he found.

“I could smell it a block away, before I got there. The wind was just right,” said McGuire. “Man, it doesn’t take long for it to pile up.”

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But rather than harassing the birds, McGuire said his department will begin focusing on cleaning up the mess left by the birds. He said such chores of cleaning messes on city streets and sidewalks fall on his department mainly because they have the equipment to wash away the droppings. He said he’ll be focusing on cleaning a nearby boardwalk, hand rail and any pavement. Nearby vehicles that get coated in droppings are, “…on their own. They’re not our responsibility.”

He thinks crews will probably have to clean the area every morning. One of the current challenges is finding a source for water to use in power sprayers. McGuire had put out a call for volunteers within the local birding community to help with the clean up. So far, one person has contacted him.

Purple martins arrive in Wichita

Purple martins returned to Wichita over the weekend, again in Old Town. Mark Schuyler shot this video Monday night, July 25, 2016, from the parking garage at the Hotel at Old Town. (Video courtesy of Mark Schuyler)

Sunday evening Mark Schuyler, a fan of Wichita’s downtown purple martin roosts for several years, estimated 10,000 to 20,000 birds were using the short line of trees. In a video shot from a nearby parking garage, he described what he saw as “… like a big tornado, they do a vortex and then they go in.” He said the first of the birds probably started dropping into the trees at about 8:55 p.m.

Most years downtown purple martin populations peak the first week of August, and have been estimated upwards of 50,000 some evenings. Many of the birds currently gathered are probably from special purple martin houses in south-central Kansas.

Most sizable towns host migrational roosts. The one in Tulsa has been estimated at about 250,000 birds.

VIDEO: Purple martins roost in Old Town

Purple martins have been roosting in Old Town in three trees across Washington from Joe's Old Town Bar and Grill. The birds start arriving around 8:45 p.m. and will swarm in for the next 20 minutes. (Video by Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)

fsalazar@wichitaeagle.com

More updates

Fishing has been as hot as the weather for about the past week or so. A friend, trolling big crank baits caught 15 big wipers at Cheney Reservoir by 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning. People fishing slab spoons have been doing well in the mornings and afternoons at Cheney, too. Marion Reservoir has also been productive this summer. Those fishing chum piles are catching channel cats. The lake has some big white bass in it now, too.

On private waters and several community or county lakes, nice largemouth bass are hitting top-water lures late in evenings and right at sunrise.

The news seems to going from good to better as per this year’s wild turkey, pheasant and quail hatches. Some attentive farmers/ranchers say it’s one of the strongest quail hatches they can remember. Brood sizes are large with a variety of sizes of chicks. This far into the summer the chances of those birds surviving are pretty good thanks to lots of cover and insects.

Upcoming coverage

Sunday’s Eagle Outdoors page will have a feature on a local angler who looks forward to the hottest days of the summer, so he can fish during the hottest hours for wipers, white bass and white perch at Cheney. Kacci Everitt shares great detail on how he often catches dozens of fish on days many think it’s too hot to event head to the beach.

The Outdoors page will also have a column about a current photo of a mountain lion, in a cornfield, that’s making the rounds online. The photo has been credited to at least three places in Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and North Carolina. This is the first mountain lion hoax I can remember where it’s even being passed around in a foreign country — Brazil.

Down the road a bit I’ll have an article on a husband and wife who like to head out on date nights as often as they can. But rather than to a dinner and a movie, they take a boat with seemingly more lights than a Hollywood premier and go bowfishing on an eastern Kansas lake. They’re certainly proficient at their favored hobby.

I’m also in the beginning stages of an article on how state parks in Kansas, and other states, are looking for alternate shelters to attract campers. Since it seems a growing number of today’s campers prefer not to “rough it” in tents, some parks are considering things like yurts and bigger canvas, wall-style tents.

And there will be the usual preview of the Aug. 11 Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commission meeting in Clay Center.

Michael’s world

I’m starting to see a few signs that fall is coming, and that’s good.

The past few days I’m seeing more doves gathering in flocks. I’ve also noticed there’s less daylight when I take Cade out to work most mornings at 6 a.m. Some evenings are starting to show that refreshing sunlight that has a lot of contrast and glow, and the air seems to be cooling at dusk.

Bring it.

Cade is coming along better and better, especially considering he’s only been home from a trainer for about two weeks. He’s grasped the concept of blind retrieves and has more confidence as he heads out and follows my hand signals and whistle commands. It takes quite a bit of trust and concentration.

Being a perpetual puppy, which I’m pretty sure he’ll never totally outgrow, his attitude had been something like, “Ah, it would just be better if I just ran around, really fast, until I find what’s out there.” Within about the past five or six training trips I can see he’s charging out in straighter lines and is more attentive to whistles and hand signals. He had a good year last year. This fall and winter could give a good indication of what he’s going to be like as an adult dog.

OK, I probably should apologize for so much dog talk in these newsletters but this part is called “Michael’s world,” and dogs have always been a large part of my world. I got my first bird dog, Rosie, a Brittany, when I was eight or ten years old and have been working dogs ever since.

It’s kind of ironic that the Chinese calendar said I was born “in the year of the dog.”

One thing that I always notice is that any time I’m working with a younger dog my interest in things like bowhunting for deer certainly decreases. I guess it’s always a time when I return to my roots as a bird hunter/dog trainer. I’m certainly planning on getting in as many waterfowl and pheasant hunts as possible this fall and winter. I’d like to get back into dog training demonstrations for schools and youth groups, like I’ve done with several previous retrievers.

Bests,

Michael Pearce

mpearce@wichitaeagle.com