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Published on Sep 3, 2009
Our habitat restoration efforts at our corporate campus in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, have started to bear fruit. Or actually, chicks. A colony of purple martins, members of the swallow family that are notoriously finicky nesters, have finished their first nesting cycle and produced 17 baby purple martins over the spring and summer.
The restoration project started in 2006, when Verizon moved into the building and our grounds maintenance team thought that instead of maintaining a mowed and manicured lawn, wed better serve the environment by restoring the land surrounding the buildings to its natural state. We teamed up with John Parke from the New Jersey Audubon Society to restore 25 acres of wetlands along the Passaic River.
John Collins, a Verizon employee in Basking Ridge, offered to help. He kept lists of the birds he saw on his daily walks around the grounds, and dug up his old sighting reports to prove that purple martins had nested in the area in previous years. That helped Parke convince the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to donate a special set of gourd nests mounted on a pole and try to lure them back.
The nesting pole was installed two years ago, but the first year, squatter birds took up residence in the nests, scaring off the purple martins. So this spring, Collins, along with fellow employees Denise Galligan and Deb Christopher, volunteered to monitor the nests, waiting for the purple martins to appear. They were my spies, said Parke, who headed up the effort. They kept close watch and let me know everything going on. Eventually, the purple martins arrived, Parke opened the nests, and the martins took up residence and thrived. Collins, Galligan and Christopher continued to keep watch over the martins and their chicks, and all but one of the chicks survived.
Now the purple martins are all winging their way south for the winter, typically traveling all the way to Brazil. But once established, purple martins return to the same area each year to nest, so well see them again next spring, hopefully, in even greater numbers. And well have a treat waiting for them weve agreed to pay for a second nesting pole to help house them all.