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Colony birds preparing for return trip to South America

SOUTH POINT – Just before sunset, they twittered and glided above the trees in droves.

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

SOUTH POINT – Just before sunset, they twittered and glided above the trees in droves.

"We come out and watch them every night," said Betty Kay Webb as she strolled along Billie Jo Drive last week. "I think they’re fascinating."

To Robin Hatfield, the village’s self-proclaimed number one purple martin fan, it’s beyond fascination.

"My husband will say, ‘Are we going down the street again tonight?’" she said, smiling and watching the martins settle into the tress or take off in an acrobatic flurry.

Martins, colony birds that migrate to South America and back each year, breed across North America, depending on backyard gourds and houses erected by patient landowners. There are many such "martin landlords" throughout South Point.

After their young fledge and leave the nest, martins congregate by the thousands in "roosts" through the end of August, preparing for their trip south to Brazil.

It’s these shows that often bring out everyone from avid bird fans to the curious.

People sometimes mention that movie, "The Birds," but they’re nice, Mrs. Webb said.

"I’m kind of growing attached to them."

Mrs. Hatfield, who supplies dozens of backyard homes herself, enjoys their return trip in March and watches out for them over the spring and summer.

"When you have purple martins, you wake up to singing," she said. "Now, they’re not in their homes anymore they’ll be going to Brazil soon. It’s going to be lonely without them."

This year seems to mark the biggest roosting event in South Point, Mrs. Hatfield said, adding the her late mother, another martin fan, never mentioned thousands roosting, like this year.

In the evening along North Kenova Road, just off of Solida, you can look up in the sky and also along power lines you can see these beautiful birds everywhere, she said.

The best thing, though, remains the birds’ shows.

"Every once in a while, they take off, like in a big show they’ll dive and soar and entertain. They’re magnificent."

For more information about purple martins, their roosting or how to attract them to your own backyard, visit the Web site: www.purplemartins.org