Amazing Purple Martin Migration!

Purple Martins (Ian Sturdee-TTPBRS)

August 21st was a cool and blustery day of summer and relatively few birds were evident, except for some overhead passage of mixed swallow species. Monarch butterflies were gathering up on poplar and sumac branches. The early closure of our nets due to high winds gave us (Ian Sturdee, Seabrooke Leckie and Dan Derbyshire) opportunity to look for monarchs at the tip near the lighthouse. However, a flock of Purple Martins caught our attention near Pipit Point. A walk to the end of the point revealed wheeling flocks of American Goldfinches and a large flock of southbound martins. We waited at the tip to see what was going on and noticed flocks of 50-100 martins flying directly over us and low out onto Lake Ontario. These birds were clearly migrating and in a hurried fashion, despite the oppressive conditions, which included massive swells and whitecaps, spray and a very strong SE wind! In just over 2 hours we counted an amazing 1, 215 Purple Martins! Observations also included a Little Gull, several Bonaparte's Gulls, and small numbers of other swallow species.

Purple Martin populations have been unstable for many years in Ontario and sightings of big numbers like this are very rare. This was a significant migration event and an absolute pleasure to experience.