The “it’s not a field trip” Purple Martin field-trip

The “it’s not a field trip” Purple Martin field-trip
by Andrew Bryant, 30 April 2017.

Some of the Purple Martin nest boxes at the Myrtle Rocks colony suffered a bit at the hands of winter storms – and needed some attention.

After an aborted attempt on a dangerously gusty and rainy Saturday, Sunday saw fair skies. David Bedry, John Treen, Bill Whyard and myself replaced seven boxes and installed some new anti-predator barriers.

Purple Martins are interesting for many reasons, not least of which is that here in BC, we have a species that is now completely reliant upon man-made habitats – because the natural cavity-nesting habitat has been destroyed.

You can learn more about Purple Martins, their history in BC, and the hugely successful volunteer-based nest-box program here, here and here.

Thanks to Rona for providing construction materials, and to Relay Rentals for loaning us their very tall (and very heavy) ladder.
And thanks to all who braved the winds on Saturday!

A low-tide stroll out to Myrtle Rocks

A low-tide stroll out to Myrtle Rocks
by Andrew Bryant, 14 June 2015. 

David Bedry, Heidi Rohard and I arranged (led is too strong a word)  a leisurely stroll out to Myrtle Rocks on a fine Sunday morning.

Fifteen club members and a few interested passers-by participated. Together we braved the bright sun, quiet winds, noticeably low tide conditions, and still waters  to cross the 500 metres or so that separate mainland B.C. and Myrtle Rocks.

Along the way we watched the noisy antics of purple martins, and were ourselves watched by a family of harbor seals.

My personal highlights were the solitary Bonaparte’s gull, a yellowlegs, a willow flycatcher and a pair of black oystercatchers that I’m convinced nested there.  David, Heidi and others happily overturned pebbles, finding crabs, worms and other intertidal critters.

I think most of us were content to watch fishing boats, converse about this or that, and chalk this one up as another nice day in paradise.


David Bedry wrote me the next day to say “Thanks for the tip yesterday.  I went back this AM for a look.  Found them, but not where I thought you said. Unfortunately all the wrong exposure conditions, and this is the best I got. Dark subject, dark background and into the sun, but still a great experience. I didn’t want to push the bird’s comfort level.   Pictures at 500 mm.”

Nicely done David!


Purple martin banding part III

Purple martin banding part III
by Andrew Bryant, 9 Aug 2014.

Scheduling conflicts prevented our Young Naturalists from attending this event.  But a few members (thanks Clyde Burton!) stepped up to the plate and provided some on-the-ground support. As usual I snapped a few images.

Thanks as always to Bruce Cousens and Charlene Lee of Nanaimo, and their technician Julia Kadera, who did all the banding.  Thanks also to the Bennett family (John, Erin and Janice), Trevor at Relay Rentals for the free ladder rental, and especially to John Bennett and Jason Roberts for helping to move the ladders around.  I REALLY appreciated your brawn, confidence and grins.

I had NO idea that BC will  likely come close to 1000 breeding pairs this year.  All because of volunteers who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved.

Charlene reports that a total of 30 nest boxes were checked (3 came down over the winter). 29 boxes were used by Purple Martins and swallows (likely Violet-green) nested in 1 box. There were 12 fledged martin nests, 1 lined nest, 1 with 3 nestlings too young to band, 1 with a 20-day old bird that wasn’t banded, 11 boxes with nestlings (24) that were banded and 3 boxes with dead young (4).  There were also 3 birds that fledged unbanded.

You can learn more about the ecological context, history, and progress of the recovery program for Western Purple Martins here.