Finding the Purple Martin is not a big problem along the Mississippi River. Most nest in colonies and use man-made birdhouses. Almost every boat landing, community, or park has them. We made another paddle tour in the Mud Lake area at the Mississippi yesterday and after the kayaks were loaded on the roof of the car I was able to photograph this species of the swallow family.
Although the availability for natural nest cavities has declined over the years, the increased availability of human-provided nest sites has a positive effect on population. The Purple Martin competes with European Starlings and, as in the case of Mud Lake Park, with the House Sparrows for nest cavities. They share the big birdhouse at the boat landing with the sparrows, but as you can see in the second image it is not always a friendly relationship between these two species
None of the photos would have worked very well without using fill flash. I just threw enough light at the birds to bring out the shadows and make the colors pop. It is a fine line and can be easily overdone.