Purple martins a recovery success story

Wear something purple on July 12 and join the BC Purple Martin Stewardship and Recovery Program at its 11th annual open house at the Ladysmith Maritime Society marina from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. to celebrate the return of western purple martins, a Species At Risk in B.C. The B.C. purple martin population has increased from a low of five breeding pairs in 1985 to over a 1,000 nesting pairs in 2014, mainly as a result of nest boxes built, installed and maintained by volunteers. There has been good return of adult birds and a low return of oneyear olds, as expected. There were two periods of cool wet weather last summer that resulted in a lower number of young being produced in 2014.

"Although the final count for 2015 is not yet available, there has been an exceptional return of two-and three-year-old birds this year. Many central island colonies are again fully or almost fully occupied. This is very exciting to see," said Program Biologist Bruce Cousens. "The martin colony at the LMS marina is the largest on Vancouver Island and we’re expecting about 80 pairs again this year."

In the Duncan area, purple martins can be seen and heard around the pilings at Cowichan Bay, the second largest colony on Vancouver Island with about 60 pairs of martins.

Visitors will be able to watch adults feeding nestlings, learn more about the conservation of purple martins at the displays and hear stories about purple martins activities around the Strait of Georgia and other parts of Canada. Martin nestlings will be banded at a session scheduled for 3 p.m. during the open house.

Light refreshments and the famous purple (blueberry) milkshakes will be served while quantities last. When you get to Ladysmith, follow the yellow signs to the marina and park in the upper parking lot.

The BC Purple Martin Stewardship and Recovery Program is coordinated by Georgia Basin Ecological Assessment and Restoration Society of Nanaimo. The Recovery Program is supported by BC Hydro, Conservancy Hornby Island, Island Timberlands, Ladysmith Maritime Society, Mid Island Coop, Pacific Conservation Assistance Fund, Pender Island Conservancy Association, Rocky Point Bird Observatory, TimberWest, Victoria Natural History Society, and Western Purple Martin Foundation as well as individuals, volunteers and local businesses.