Michael Pearce

City hopes migrating purple martins pick another roost

Migrating purple martins are certainly welcome in Wichita. City officials just hope they don’t congregate in a common roost in Old Town, like they did last summer.

Jim Mason, Great Plain Nature Center director, said last year’s roost in four or five small trees between Douglas and First streets, just west of Washington, drew complaints from some local residents, business owners, some of their customers and city officials who had to pay to have park crews clean up the mess.

Not all people are opposed to the feathered gathering. Watching the big flocks joining to roost at night has become a tradition for a growing number of wildlife watchers.

“There’s no doubt it’s a stunning sight to witness, the clouds of birds coming down and flooding into the trees,” said Mason “It’s just amazing.” So is the amount of bird droppings such roosts, which have numbered up to an estimated 50,000 birds some years, can leave on the ground.

Wichita is one of several sizable cities, including Omaha and Tulsa, where purple martins gather before migrating to South America. Some of the birds that roost in Wichita may have just hatched a few weeks earlier as far north as central Canada.

The peak of Wichita’s communal roost is usually the first week of August. In years past the birds have roosted near Century II, three different locations on the hospital grounds of Via Christi on St. Francis. As well as the mess, hospital officials were concerned germs from the bird droppings could get tracked into the hospital.

Some trees were eventually cut down so martins wouldn’t use them for roosts in the future, and others were trimmed back and the birds moved. Via Cristi also had workers slapping trees with long boards a few years ago, trying to drive out birds that had already settled in the branches.

Mason said the city has no exact plans on what they’ll do to discourage martins from roosting in problematic areas in Old Town.

“The hope is we can come up with some kid of win-win situation,” he said. “We need a place where they can perch and be happy and not any problem for the public, much less the merchants in our premiere entertainment district.

Other updates

Fishing’s Future is having an instructor’s course Aug. 20, in Salina. The national organization is dedicated to getting more families into the outdoors, primarily through fishing. Wildlife and Parks works closely with Fishing’s Future. Those who qualify to become instructors may be asked to assist with a variety of fishing clinics or hold sanctioned clinics on their own. Equipment is often provided for such events. The class will be 9 a.m.-noon, at the Lakewood Discovery Center, in Salina. For more information you can call Stuart Scott at 316-648-9847 or hvparkstu#gmail.com.

With the wheat harvest winding down, it looks like there’s been a decent pheasant hatch. As often happens with stormy weather, their will probably be great spots and poor spots. We still have a lot of summer, though, for chicks to survive. The rains these past few days should greatly add to weeds and insects, though.

I’ve gotten some good reports on young broods of quail. One avid hunter/farmer said he’s seen more this July than any July in the past. He had some hunts last year reminiscent of the 1980s. Hopefully things will continue to work well for the birds.

Rains are also helping keep blue-green algae stirred up, and not as much of a problem, at Kansas reservoirs. As is, places like Milford and Cheney have had days when contact with the water was discouraged because of blue-green algae concentrations.

Upcoming coverage

Sunday’s Outdoors page will have a feature on mid-summer fishing, using top -water lures to catch largemouth bass. Local expert Eric Akred helped me with the article, and it will have information on the four main styles of top-water lures and when Eric likes to use them. We made a long day of it on Wednesday to make sure I got my photography/video needs met. Eric probably caught about 50 bass but nothing too huge. It was a good day. Hopefully the article can be entertaining and educational.

If all goes as planned some soon Sunday I’ll have a feature on some outdoorsmen who beat the summer heat by getting fish at night. Rather than catfish on hooks, though, they’re catching things like carp and gar with bow-fishing outfits. We’ll probably go to Big Hill Reservoir in southeast Kansas. It’s known to have big common and grass carp and several other species of fish that can be legally shot with special bow-fishing rigs.

Michael’s world

Except for a rare mid-summer case of bronchitis, all seems to be going good to great. The bronchitis was possibly triggered by a trip to a cattery (kitty kennel) a cousin has in eastern Kansas. She’s deep into cat shows, and currently owns a world-champion of some breed. Apparently my allergies weren’t impressed by such royalty. No biggie. I got on meds right away and will feel good as old within a few days.

Fridays are always pretty busy for me. This week’s will probably be well above average since I’ll be picking up Cade and bringing him home. He’s been at a trainer’s since late April. During that time he’s had about two months worth of training. I stopped in and saw him being worked earlier this week. He’s made quite a bit of progress and I plan on continuing the trainer’s regime to help Cade get better at handling blind retrieves.

Blinds are retrieved when the handler using a series of hand, voice and whistle commands to direct the dog to the location of the fall. It’s a very important tool to have when birds may fall across a river or a lake where the water is too deep for me to cross. Learning to handle blinds also brings an added closeness between the handler and the dog.

Hank, the old Lab we buried last year, was usually so proud after a blind retrieve he insisted on a victory lap around the duck blind so all of our hunting buddies could see what he’d accomplished.


Michael Pearce