The next thing we knew, there was maybe 40 or 50. All of which were heading to the southwest. A friend and I ran out to pick up food, excited about the Purple Martins. Upon arriving at the restaurant, we noticed nearly 450 martins in one group! This was enough to break the Clermont County high count of Purple Martins by 50 birds!
The next weekend, I was back in Cincinnati and decided to get there a little bit earlier and see where they were all coming from. However, at that same site, we saw maybe 100 and they were all overhead going west. As we were about to leave, we looked over and noticed a cloud that we estimated to be 800 martins! We made it over to the parking lot where the cloud was only to hear them tucked into the vegetation along the edge of the parking lot.
The next night, we realized we needed to get there even earlier than we had. We wanted to get to this site at about the time we first noticed birds over the yard the week before. We showed up about 45 minutes before sunset this time with a tally clicker in hand ready to get to the bottom of the mystery of just how many Purple Martins were present at this roost.
What started as a 1x1 count of birds coming into about 800 birds was very quickly turned into a 5x1 count. Then a 10x1 count. Over the course of the next 45 minutes, we clicked groups of 10 martins coming in from the southwest only. We found birds were mainly coming from the southwest, passing over our heads, doing a large loop northeast of us, then coming back in. This way we could reduce the amount of birds double counted (while still missing those birds that were coming in from the NE without passing us the first time).
Our total that evening ended at an astonishing 10,494. We repeated the process the following weekend and came up with 13,783. We shared this with some of the local birding groups and were thrilled to see other birders coming out to enjoy this mind-blowing spectacle in a suburban shopping center parking lot! Purple Martins are known to use these urban/suburban landscapes for their fall staging but had not previously used this location!