HOLMBERG: Purple Martins majesty and the Flying Squirrels in Bottom

Posted at 12:00 AM, Aug 01, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-02 02:13:58-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--In Richmond’s historic Shockoe Bottom, there are two constants every year, a new plan to locate a baseball park there and the massing of the Purple Martins.

The humans gather in the Bottom for sunsets this time every year to see the wondrous aerial convention of these unconventional colonial acrobats.

This is only one of two spots in the country where these big, colonial swallows gather before their long flight to Brazil.

Why they return to this precise spot every year is something of a mystery.

But there’s a theory: For about three centuries, farmers brought their vegetables to the market there, which attracted lots of insects - food for the birds.

It’s also not a total mystery why the ballpark proposal for this same area keeps flying back. Part of it is city leaders think they stand a better chance of getting it financed in the Bottom, and another part is there’s a concept to turn the Diamond’s current location into mixed-use shopping destination – perhaps without a ballpark there.

Right now, it’s just pie-in-the-sky stuff.

And just as the crowd watched a hawk enjoy a purple martin dinner Tuesday night,  the latest ballpark-in-the-Bottom proposal is going to get attacked and likely chewed up, like the others.

Just one reason: parking and getting in and out of the Bottom is already a problem, unless, of course, you’re a Purple Martin.

Right now there are about 16,000 of them massing. By this time next week, it’ll be 25,000 or so. Then they’ll take off for Brazil. Be sure to check out the Purple Martin majesty.

It’s likely they’ll be returning for years, probably before the Flying Squirrels baseball team arrives in the Bottom.