UPDATE: I revisited Sheffield on June 04 - see paragraph 3) below:
This page is devoted to describing and illustrating our experience with Purple Martins Progne subis west of the Pecos River in Texas in late May 2016:
Over the course of two days (May 28 and 29) we had four seperate encounters with nesting Purple Martins in the eastern Trans-Pecos.
Here is a map of this region of Texas, with the four locations marked, and for reference Pecos County is highlighted inside the pink area.
On the morning of May 28 we saw a pair at the west-bound rest area c. 20 miles west of Sheffield. While at the rest area we saw only one male and one female, and they were nesting inside the light fitting on a light pole east of the main restroom building. Both would sometimes land on the tops of trees near the nest pole and were seen flying around at various heights but always within sight of the rest area. There were House Sparrows present and they were seen to land on the light, but the martins seemed dominant when they landed on the top of the fixture:
On the morning of May 29 we saw a pair at the east-bound rest area c. 20 miles west of Sheffield - this is located c. 500 yards west of the west-bound rest area. While at the rest area we saw only one male and one female, and they were nesting inside the light fitting on a light pole east of the main restroom building. Both were seen flying around at various heights and mostly within sight of the rest area. There were House Sparrows present and they were seen to land on the light, but the martins seemed dominant when they landed on the top of the fixture:
When a sparrow landed on the pole...
- the female martin would quickly come in and chase it off:
In the late morning of May 29 we drove into Sheffield from the west. As we were driving slowly through town, looking for the road south to Independence Creek, Sheridan saw some martins overhead, so we pulled over to take a look. This was roughly in the middle of the town (which is quite small), and we saw a number of martins flying closely around and landing on/under two small metal canopies that were part of adjacent abandoned car shops - here is one of them:
This was the only Starling we saw, and the martins were ingoring it...
- and flying straight in to the ledges (bird on far right):
- here is that male at the nest:
Here is a different corner of the canopy; there is a nest out of view in the corner, and this nest c. 2 feet away:
- we estimated that there were c. 30 birds nesting in the two canopies.
UPDATE: I revisited Sheffield on June 04: I could not find any unequivocal martin nests under the 2nd awning (but a few martins were persistently flying under there). I now estimate that there are 18 - 20 martins present in town, with at least 6 active nests (perhaps 8) under the first awning; here is a photo from today:
On the afternoon of May 29 we drove into Sanderson on SH90 from the east, looking for a gas station. There is a Stripes station just east of the junction with SH285. We immidiately saw a pair of martins feeding low overhead, and the male landed in a nearby bare snag a couple of times. We waited a short while until finally the female approached a light stand and entered at the side of one of the lights where a corner of the clear plastic lower cover frame had popped loose. We watched the female enter and leave twice, the latter time after spending a few minutes on the nest. I saw two House Sparrows land on an adjacent light, but they never attempted to enter the martin nest.: