Grand Prairie, a city of 184,000 is located between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. This city has many unique attractions, among them a large flea market called Traders Village. As with any flea market, one can buy all manner of things, including a variety of birdhouses, most of them homemade. In 1981, Gisela Fregoe and her husband Richard had just moved to Grand Prairie and were visiting Traders Village.
Gisela came upon a man selling wooden, 12-compartment birdhouses, something she had never encountered before. She asked the vendor what kind of bird nests in such a birdhouse, and was told that there are birds in Texas that will come and search for just that kind of house. Gisela wanted to add birdhouses to her backyard garden so she purchased one and put it up the following day. A few days later her new house was inspected by some Purple Martins, and to her delight, they moved in and stayed the entire summer. Thus was born the love affair between Gisela Fregoe and Purple Martins, an affair all of us can identify with.
Gisela’s original martin house has since been replaced by two, more manageable, bi-level houses, each with four SuperGourds hung beneath them, and a rack of 12 SuperGourds. A collection of perches and a tray offering twigs, leaves, crushed eggshells and oyster shells completes the Fregoe Purple Martin colony. Gisela is a dedicated landlord, conducting nest checks, performing nest replacements and keeping meticulous records of her martin colony. But her interest in Purple Martins does not end with those in her backyard. She has thoroughly educated herself about Purple Martins, and has developed a passion for educating others, and enthusiastically promotes Purple Martins wherever she can. She has given numerous talks at garden clubs and other organizations. Many Purple Martin landlords in our area can attribute their initial interest in martins to Gisela Fregoe, including the Mayor of Grand Prairie.
Gisela’s devotion to Purple Martins, coupled with her seemingly endless energy, continues to advance their cause in this area. She works tirelessly with new landlords (including Grand Prairie Mayor Charles England), helping them to attract martins, and encouraging them to properly manage their colony once it becomes a reality. In 1999, Gisela felt there was “so much to learn to be a successful landlord”, so she fulfilled a dream by organizing a group of martin enthusiasts “to spread the word about this wonderful bird”. The group, Purple Martin Landlords of North Texas, began with 20 members and today has a membership of over 100 individuals, including PMCA’s 1995 Landlord of the Year, Dr. Tom Dellinger, and his wife Maria. Several members travel over an hour (one-way) to attend these monthly meetings. Each member pays $5.00 annual membership dues to help sustain the club’s activities.
Purple Martin Landlords of North Texas currently meets at 7:00 pm on the first Thursday of each month from January to July at the Betty Warmack Library in Grand Prairie. Each meeting begins with a business session, chaired by Gisela, the group’s president, followed by a program dealing with some aspect of Purple Martins and their management. A highlight of our 2002 program year occurred when Kathy Rogers of the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and Farm Sanctuary in Hutchins, Texas, (http://www.rogerswildlife.org/) took time out of her very busy schedule to come speak to us. Kathy has taken in several North Texas Purple Martins in need of rehabilitation, some of which have been returned to the wild, and at least one that will live out its days under the loving care of Kathy and her staff. The club’s last meeting of each year is a potluck dinner during which all members compare notes on the successes or failures of their respective colonies during the year. This year, many club members attended the Annual Lewisville Premigratory Roost dinner and roost-watch.
In May 2002, Gisela arranged for the club to have a booth at the Grand Prairie Mayfest. She, Carol Leach and myself answered questions and provided PMCA literature to many interested persons while the Purple Martin Dawnsong played in the background! Gisela and the club are currently working to establish Purple Martin colonies at Loyd Park on Joe Pool Lake (located in both Dallas and Grand Prairie), and at the Kirby Creek Park Natural Science Education Center in Grand Prairie. Additionally, Gisela has been in contact with the U.S. Postal Service and is working with them to have Purple Martins honored on a U.S. Postage Stamp. Petition sheets were circulated at Martinfest 2002 to include with the postage stamp application.
Another one of Gisela’s dreams was to establish a Purple Martin Day in the City of Grand Prairie. Richard Fregoe, a city councilman in Grand Prairie since 1994, inquired with the mayor about how to accomplish this. Louise Chambers provided a write up, which was condensed by Richard and submitted to the city. On July 2, 2002, Grand Prairie Mayor Charles England signed a proclamation declaring July 11, 2002 as Purple Martin Day in Grand Prairie (July 11 was picked to coincide with the club’s final meeting of the year). Mayor England presented the proclamation to Gisela (president), Jim McIntosh (vice president), Jeanne Streeter (treasurer), and Don Streeter in a brief ceremony during the July 2, 2002 City Council meeting. Councilman Fregoe presented the proclamation to the club at their final meeting on July 11th.
This story would not be complete without recognizing the efforts of Gisela’s husband, Richard. He has been a constant support to Gisela and our purple martin organization, working quietly and efficiently in the background to assure everything is in place for meetings and presentations.