Sunday August 14th, at Buena Vista
Leaders: Dale Hjertaas and David Blais
The Purple Martin Field Trip
Photos received from various members are at the end of the report.
Approximately 17 nature Regina members were joined by 6 or 8 people from Buena Vista and Regina Beach for this tour. As Nature Regina tours go, this one was quite relaxed. We assembled at the Buena Vista Village office, and from there David Blais led us to the beach parking area. We then walked down to the beach and several boat docks and spent the next hour and half watching the sunset, gulls, the lake and the ever growing flocks of Purple Martins. I found it very enjoyable, a relaxed chance to visit with many people while birds kept flying by to entertain us.
At first only a couple hundred Martins were foraging over the lake, circling round and perching in some distant trees. Numbers gradually grew and for a while a thousand or more would perch a few hundred metres down the beach, then suddenly fly out over the lake. As it got closer to sunset the Martins began homing in on the roost area, just above where we were standing. It was quite amazing to watch the Martins gliding effortlessly, then darting down into the trees.
I am not certain how many birds there were. This evening they came and settled in groups and did not all fly out again. I had thought at least 2,000 had settled in the trees and it might be over. Then after sunset two more large flocks of a thousand or so each, came in. They flew in and out a couple times, so close I am sure a few bird were within arm’s length. It was thrilling.
After the Martins had settled we cautiously went up the path to the roost trees to hear the chatter as Martins preened, talked and moved to better branches. It seems to take a lot of settling in! I lay down directly under roost trees and watched for a while. That was the highlight for me, watching the Martins settling in, preening, talking, finding a best spot on a branch. I watched a newcomer displace a bird that was already settled. Fifteen feet above me I counted 22 Martins in a few square feet on three branches of one caragana stem. One of the Martins defecated on me. A hazard of Martin watching I guess.
It was a wonderful experience and a beautiful sunset to boot. Thanks to David Blais for watching the Martins for the last few days so he knew exactly where to take us, for telling us about Martins, about Martin houses and The Purple Martin Society and for making the trip a success.
– submitted by Dale Hjertaas
Click on photos for larger views.