Category Archives: Ontario Purple Martin Association

Walpole Island Purple Martin Roost


(Used with permission from Susan and Richard Carr, Purple Martin Project)

Well, been a long time since I (Henry) posted anything, and this post is for those who don’t hit the PMCA Facebook page, but I believe my wife and I have had the best month of August a PM freak could ever have. I will try to keep this short and let the link below do all the talking. To preface the video, Richard and Susan Carr (Walpole Island Purple Martin Project), my wife Elaine, my two sons Jordan (drone pilot) and Jeremy (photographer and videographer) and myself spent the month of August roost hunting in a vast delta marsh area where the St. Clair river dumps into lake St. Clair. It is a giant marsh with huge phragmite islands that was showing an enormous roost ring on radar every morning. The trouble is, you have one hour to find the birds in a 5-10,000 acre area before they go down into the phragmite for the night, and then you boat out of the marsh in some serious darkness. Regardless, after a few scouting days, some evenings flying the drone where no sane person would fly a drone, and driving our boat a few hundred miles, we discovered the roost area(s). From about August 2nd to September 2nd, the amount of PMs we saw was simply incredible. This delta area must draw birds from all over the Great Lakes basin, because there is no way Ontario has this many PMs. When you hit the link, there is what looks like a gear wheel on the lower right side to change the settings, click the gear and try to watch in 780 or better yet 1080P or higher for the best quality. This is just the short version of the project, the full length video is a whopping 1 hr and 15 min epic saga Jeremy created with all the video footage we accumulated, it is just way too big to upload from our place.
Anyways, enjoy…if there is a roost near you, go see it. Words cannot describe an encounter with 200,000 martins in a 45 minute spectacular show. Where else could you see a million PMs doing what they do best? …

Festival of Hawks 2018

Festival of Hawks

Saturday September 15 – Sunday September 16, 2018

Saturday September 22-Sunday September 23, 2018

Join the experts from the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory for this annual celebration of the great migration. See thousands of raptors and other birds as they make their journey south. This festival features kid-friendly activities, nature-themed vendors, and a wide range of free programming. Adopt a hawk and banding activities will take place.This is your chance to take in this unique natural spectacle at one of the top bird watching sites in North America. Holiday Beach is ranked as the top hawk watching site in Canada by Audubon Magazine, and the third best in all of North America.

 9 am – 3 pm daily; $15 a day/car

Holiday Beach Conservation Area – 6952 County Rd. 50 W., Amherstburg

Join the OPMA experts at their tent by the Hawk Tower as they continue to describe their work with  declining purple martins . Members will be on hand to answer your questions about the species, migration, roosts, housing set ups and more-all in full view of the purple martin colony.

Pelee Roost Numbers Tumble

After visiting the Pelee Roost on Friday, September 7, it has become apparent that the roost has really dwindled and the North-Northwest winds have triggered the migration south. Numbers of martins were down from the 5000 or so  and the swallow numbers were few as well. Most of the martins struggled high in the sky against the prevailing wind before heading in to the roost. After making two circles , around the marsh area where they roost, the 500 or so martins settled in at 8:20 p.m. The view as always was  spectacular especially when  they executed their  vortex decent.

One more visit next week will probably be the last time  the roost is visited for this year.

Hawkfest Needs Your Help

Hello OPMA members,
Once again we are planning to be part of the Hawkfest activities at Holiday Beach Migration Observatory (HBMO).
This is a 2 weekend event:   
September 15-16 …….. September 22-23 
We have a crew that will set up our booth and displays on Friday the 14th, but several volunteers are needed to “man the booth” throughout these 4 days for each 3-hour shift:
9 am— 12   ………………..   12—3 pm each day 
If you’ve never been to Hawkfest, you’ll find it very interesting.    There is always a display of “education” birds – owls, and various other raptors, and visitors get a close up look at them as well as various songbirds that are captured for banding.    The experts provide great stories and information.    Hawkfest also features a variety of vendor booths, and of course, the Purple Martin housing, which is a joint venture between OPMA and HBMO, can be seen.    
The main involvement of our OPMA volunteers is to talk with people, freely sharing their knowledge and experiences.    (At our MartinFest in July, the wonderful interaction between our OPMA volunteers and the public was a major part of our success, and probably the very best way to impart our knowledge of and excitement for our hobby!)
So, we hope to have enough volunteers to fill these time slots, and help us promote Purple Martins!     if you can help, please contact Paul Hamel by email ( or phone (519-738-3476).   Paul has been given an entry code by HBMO which will allow our volunteers to enter the park without paying the public entry fee.    This code will be provided prior to September 15th to those who will be volunteering.
Mary Wilson

Time to Clean and Repair Purple Martin Houses and other Nestboxes

Nesting season has ended and now is the time to prepare for next season. We suggest you not only clean out your Purple Martin  gourds and houses but Tree Swallow and  Eastern Bluebird boxes too.

Take a good look at them. Do you see any damage? Are there any cracks that need to be sealed with caulk? If you see anything about your box, nesting tray, predator guards, winches ,poles, pulleys that might pose a hazard to birds now is the time to make repairs. Don’t forget also to check the post footing to see if it is cracked or the soil around the pole has separated.

After any necessary repairs, return your nest boxes to a safe  place out of the elements or return them to their original location. Block the holes with a metal piece, turn the nesting tray around to block the entrance  or cover the entire house with a suitable bag until Spring arrives. Aluminum Purple Martin houses do quite well in the winter as long as entrances are blocked. Plastic gourds on the other hand, can be stored inside out of the elements in an exterior building.


Pelee Roost on the Decline

After an increased number of martins settled into the roost peaking on August 20th, it appears now that they are moving on to other roosts south of Ontario. The number of Purple Martins counted on Friday, August 31, 2018 was approximately 4000, much lower than the 40,000 at their peak. The visits to the roost have been quite enlightening as the martins continue to exhibit behaviours never seen before by this observer. Many questions have arisen with regard to  their approaches, flyways and staging areas at Pelee. Flight patterns and flyway corridors seem to have been used for several decades at this site but there really doesn’t seem to be any previous observations reported as a point of comparison. The prevailing winds for the most part were out of the south, south-west with only a couple of nights of winds from the north, north -west . Hopefully, there will still be a few nights to view the smaller roost during the first week of September. The image below shows how small the roost has become on September 2, 2018.

Point Pelee Roost Numbers Continue to Grow

After visiting the Pelee Roost on 8/10/2018, it has been quite interesting to actually see the staging areas along Mersea Rd. D and Mersea Rd. E. grow in size and numbers. Of particular note is Purple Martins staging in Poplar and Willow trees before entering the Roost area. The martins continue to put on a show in great numbers as they fly over with their young just after sunset. Since the days are getting shorter and the sunset earlier, it is best to arrive at least 45 minutes before the martins arrive to see the actual activity. If you need further directions on how to get to the roost contact The photo section reveals the thousands of martins passing by  .

Purple Martin Roosts are Forming

What is a Roost?  In late summer after leaving the nesting colony, Purple Martins gather in large flocks to feed, socialize, and rest before migrating down to South America.  This activity, known as migratory roosting, can attract thousands of birds to one small area.  Martins also form winter roosts on their South American wintering grounds where they will often flock together with other martin species. Often roost  will form on Doppler radar in the form of a ring or crescent or even a large mass of dots. The best time to view the images is between 8-10 UTC or MT. The header image shows these roost rings in Canada and the US. The doughnut shape is located at Point Pelee National Park.


Where to Find a Roost?  

Typically migratory roosts are found;

* in larger bodies of water—reed beds and dry islands with low thick brush provide sanctuary from predators and a micro-climate warmer and less windy than land

* in urban and suburban areas roots can be found in trees or man-made structures such as bridges and pipes

* winter roosts in South American can occur in urban settings—often in small parks and in the Amazon rainforest.

There are many migratory roosts scattered around North America and some can be very large.  Some roosts may contain hundreds of thousands of martins.  Many martin roosts are large enough to be detected by weather radar.  Studies indicate that martins using a particular roost may come from a wide geographic area.

Individual martins may use a roost for several weeks before migrating, but the roost itself may last 8-12 weeks or more until all birds are gone.  Once established, martin roost locations may be reused for many consecutive years.

Roost Conservation

Migratory and wintering roosts are critically important to the annual life cycle and ecology of Purple Martins.  Roosts can be a spectacular sight with tens or even hundreds of thousands of birds descending at dusk.  Visiting a roost is a unique experience, and roosts can provide community and conservation groups a focal point for environmental education programs, birding festivals, or ecotourism promotions.

How You Can Help:  Project Martin Roost is a cooperative research project between the Purple Martin Conservation Association, its members, and bird enthusiasts everywhere, designed to protect and promote Purple Martin roosts in North and South America.

Nature Canada has joined forces with the public to locate roosts in Canada and asks everyone who finds a swallow roost to contact them.

The first step in conserving Purple Martin roosts is documenting their occurrence.  Radar images suggest that more than 350 migratory roosts occur in the eastern U.S. and Canada; however most of these locations are undocumented.  Where exactly are these roost sites?  How many exist in North and South America?  Are there any issues with established roost sites?  This is where you can help the most!

Where do they go after they leave the roost?

The PMCA has produced an excellent video found on YouTube following the voyage of Purple Martins from 2011-2014.

Check it out:

Journey South and Back