The Summer of… Purple Martins

by | Sep 10, 2023 | Venus & Mars Go Sailing | 3 comments

It seems that each summer, one creature or another comes to us in a way that defines the sailing season. That the wind and weather, the landscapes and seascapes, and their inhabitants distinguish one day from another aboard delights me. I remember—2007 was the summer of mama Mergansers with their myriad ducklings, Pacific white-sided dolphins claimed 2011 in a most amazing way, and in 2019 it was the season for seeing Humpback whales. Other years our totems were Bald eagles, Harbor seals, Marbled murrelets, Orca, Great Blue herons, Harbor porpoises, and Rhinoceros auklets. From the small to the mighty, they fill my mind with wonder and my heart with joy. This summer has been the season of Purple martins in all their iridescent splendor.

The first morning aboard Kagán, I woke to their melodies. Seems they nest atop the pilings in our new home port of Friday Harbor. Each day of recommissioning the boat began with their serenades. I admit to grumbling at some of those early wake-up calls—at this latitude, the days dawn well before five as the summer solstice nears. And there’s no snooze button when your alarm clock is singing the day in from the rigging. But, oh the stunning sunrises I would’ve slept through without them.

And each time back and forth—as I went to the shower room or laundry or a coffee shop for a latte or just to take a walk—they scolded me for passing beneath their territory. Maybe it was my imagination, but as the days went by, their chattering lessened as they got used to my comings and goings. I became a neighbor, rather than an intruder.

Though in past years, I had seen the occasional Purple martin, throughout this season they crossed our paths. I’d catch the trilling—so familiar to me from Friday Harbor—sometimes at distant docks, sometimes at anchor, often to start the day at dawn or to end it as the sun sank. While on the hook in Gig Harbor, a flock of them fluttered in and out of Kagán’s rigging—clinging to the shrouds, perched upon the radar dome, and even settling onto the boom just feet above our heads while we watched and listened from the cockpit.

So, for me, this is the summer of Purple martins, and their songs will bring memories to my mind of this particular sailing season. I feel so grateful that nature, and my neighbors in it, define my days.

What has defined this summer for you?

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  1. Jane Gill-Shaler

    Thank you, Deb, for your delightful insights. For me, this summer was the year of the construction projects. A porch railing in NC, a barn in NH, and a retaining wall in CA. What would we do without the internet?

  2. Tom Moore

    Great read Deb. My family kept Martin gourds hung for them to nest and control mosquitoes. Love to watch them fly. Hope you are well.

  3. Jenn

    My summer was defined by your next post…”planning and playing, consistency and spontaneity.” So grateful for this life I have. And the neighbors I share it with.


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