South Georgia has a different way of predicting springtime

Published 8:38pm Friday, February 21, 2014

In the month of February, while some put much stock or dependence on the ground hog and his prediction of when spring will arrive, others have a different opinion about when spring will make its presence known, and the news is forecast by the one and only Purple Martin.
Such is the belief of one Jack Jones. On the Feb. 19 I received one of my Jack calls. The voice over the phone said, “Jean Ann, I saw something this morning I have never in my 80-something years seen before.”  To which I replied, “Well Jack, do tell!”
Jack continued, “As I stepped out on my porch in the early morning fog and slight mist, I heard a sound and as I looked up there were six Purple Martin birds landing on one gourd, never seen that before.”  Jack wondered how in the world could these little birds, zero in on that one gourd in his yard in the early morning fog coming all the way from South America. Could it be radar?
Jack went on to say, he almost would rather see these small little fellows, the scouts he called them, than the big whooping cranes in the winter. He agreed it was a difficult choice.
It seemed that Jack, as well as many in the area, set the arrival of spring on the arrival of the purple martin scouts. Jack advised me on the duties of the scout martins.
He said these little black birds, yes so black they look purple, have a job other than forecasting the arrival of spring.
According to Jack, the scouts stay only a few days and in that time, they choose housing and scout out the food supply in the area where the housing is located. Many martin gourds as well as houses line the yards and fence rows in the Climax area, and our neighboring small city of Whigham in Grady County welcome the birds with houses all along their Broad Street.
Jack said the scouts stay only a few days, and he said there is an abundance of food in this area as the birds eat bugs and especially mosquitoes.
He explains that after the scouts check out the houses and if they meet the approval as far as condition, and location, he said they were “picky,” when it comes to location, they don’t like the place to be too near the woods and must have a fine flying angle and a stop short landing place such as a pole or porch as are on some houses. After all these thing are examined well, the birds make a return trip to South America to pick up the rest of the family for the trip back North.
In recent years, the cities have encouraged the Purple Martins to nest in their towns and neighborhoods with fine metal houses of all sizes and colors such as Whigham has. But for many years these birds, who are a member of the Swallow family, have been on the farms and around the countryside.
Many farmers grew gourds to hang as homes for the birds.
A pole and two cross boards, or maybe a metal pole if they had access to a welder, were used. Then if they wanted to be really fancy, the gourds were hung from an old metal wagon wheel or some type of wheel that had out lived its usefulness. Each fall or winter, the gourds were cleaned and new ones were hung to replace the broken or overused ones making ready for the scouts.
In early February, everyone began to watch for the Martin scouts especially if the weather began to make a change.
As some wait for the ground hog in early February, others in South Georgia wait for the Purple Martin scouts. Around Valentine’s Day, one expects to see the Martins. However, this year according to some, the Martins are a little later than Valentine’s Day by a few days. But still they say spring is just around the corner, and the Martin’s scouts will soon be back with the rest of the family on one warm day soon.
Jack, I sure hope so. It seems Jack is an authority on quite a few things around Climax.

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