Citizen Science at its Finest

On July 1st, members of our stewardship team, including our summer interns, were privileged to have the opportunity to visit the Perkasie, PA property of Heritage Conservancy Chairman Emeritus, William Hart Rufe III as he shared his prided Purple Martin habitat with us. On a community, county, and state level, Judge Rufe has committed his adult life to volunteer activism in protecting the land and environment. Steadfast dedication, unquestioned sincerity, interminable energy and insightful leadership characterize his efforts on behalf of preserving the historic and natural heritage of the greater Delaware region.

Given his dedication, it is no surprise that Judge Rufe’s property is a stunning example of citizen science at its finest! He and Devich Farbotnik, a local environmentalist and bird expert, have worked together on the property, demonstrating an impressive dedication to caring for various bird species, including Purple Martins. Purple Martins are colony nesters, nesting next to each other for added protection but do not form flocks away from their nests. Historically, Native Americans hung hollowed gourds around their settlements for the birds to nest in. The birds, in turn, helped decrease the flying insect populations. Over the years, Purple Martins in the Eastern United States, but not in the West, have become so reliant on these artificial nesting structures that they no longer nest in hollow trees. Together, Judge Rufe and Farbotnik have created an ideal environment for these extraordinary birds with a large gourd array for their shelter on land ideally suited to their needs.

In addition to their work with Purple Martins, Rufe and Farbotnik tend to a vast number of nest boxes for bluebirds and swallows. We are extremely thankful for the incredible opportunity to observe such beautiful creatures!