Purple martins have been spotted south of Squamish and are making their way towards us on their annual migration from the tropics. The Squamish Purple Martin Project is requesting purple martin observations be emailed to sea2skynature at gmail.com. Please include the location, date and time. Pictures are much appreciated.
The Western purple martin (Progne subis aboricola) is the largest swallow in North America. In the 1980s its population was decimated to less than 5 breeding pairs in British Columbia. With the help of artificial nesting boxes, their population rebounded to 585 nesting pairs in 2010. In Squamish, you will see nesting boxes installed on marine pilings in the Central Estuary Channel that runs roughly parallel and east of the spit and training dyke.
The first purple martin of 2017 was observed on cluster of nest boxes labelled 1, 14, 15, 16 and 17 on May 24th. Purple martins are colonial nesters and by July there were several using the nest boxes. These nest boxes are best viewed with a spotting scope from 3rd avenue, just before Squamish Terminals. There are more nest boxes north of this location, farther up the Central channel. These are easily observed from the Swan Trail that runs along the channel. (see map below)
Purple martins are a Species At Risk and are threatened by habitat loss, pollution and introduced species such as House Sparrows and European Starlings. They are insectivores that can be seen feeding above other swallows , especially at dusk when the winds settle and the insects come out.
Please support this project by submitting your sightings. For more information https://www.squamishenvironment.ca/purple-martin-nest-box-program/
Header photo courtesy of Vanessa Isnardy: Male and sub-adult male Purple Martin at nest box in Squamish estuary central channel. July 2017.