The Times-Dispatch reported last week that the Purple Martins of Shockoe Bottom are back, filling the skies of East Richmond with their aerial ballet:
About 2,000 of the purple martins are using the Bottom once again as a stopover during their migration to Brazil.
"With that many birds this early, it looks like it's shaping up to be a good roost year," said biologist Mike Wilson.
There could be 5,000 to 8,000 martins by early August, said Wilson, with the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University.
After spending the day eating airborne insects, the chatty, acrobatic martins swoop down at dusk, to onlookers' delight, into a row of Bradford pear trees just north of the 17th Street Farmers' Market.
The birds arrived just in time for Gone To The Birds 2010, the third annual festival celebrating the Purple Martins. The festival lands in the Bottom on Saturday, July 31. (The bird photo by David Grunfeld was snagged from the festival website.)
My favorite slice of local news reporting? Birds gone wild:
Suddenly, two of downtown Richmond's rare peregrine falcons shot like rockets into the martin flock. One falcon caught a martin on the wing and passed it in flight to the crying second falcon.
Wilson, who wasn't there, said most likely a parent falcon was feeding a hungry youngster. Before the night was over, the falcons made a couple of more air raids, and a red-tailed hawk flew by nonchalantly with a martin in its talons.