Purple Martin Project

Purple Martin Project

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(by Bob Wadsworth) On a densely foggy morning, January 13, Hank Henry and I joined the Olympia Harbor Patrol on a trip from Swantown Marina to Boston Harbor where we met Craig Merkel to do the annual cleaning of the purple martin nest boxes. (Harbor Patrol Captain Darlene flanked by crew members Janet Notarianni and Dave Palazzi)

On the way we soon discovered that our binoculars were useless as the fog was so thick we couldn’t see beyond to bow of the boat.  The Harbor Patrol got a good chance to instrument-navigate with radar and GPS.

Bob and Janet enjoying the view.

We had chosen this particular date because of the high tide (10:15 AM) during daylight hours which meant that we could reach the nest boxes attached to pilings at the marina from the deck of the boat without a ladder.

Working on the boxes.

We found that all six boxes were used by the Martins.  They had a thick mat of twigs and except for one box, all appeared to have birds fledged with no broken eggshells or dead nestlings. 

However, we did find one nest with five unhatched eggs and a dead martin which we could not identify as either juvenile or female adult.

This is the third season of monitoring purple martin nest boxes at Boston Harbor Marina.  Three years ago, we installed 22 boxes to supplement a dozen boxes already there.  As it turned out, those boxes were not used by the birds.  After the second year of not being used, we replaced them with six boxes that were built to meet a design more appropriate for purple martins.  This year’s results indicate these boxes are to the birds’ liking.