Purple Martin Restoration

Photo by Linda Cavanagh

Purple Martin Restoration

Purple Martins are now restricted to the New Hampshire coast, after the last remaining colony in the Lakes Region (Wakefield) was not occupied in 2018. By 2019 all our eggs were in only two baskets: the colonies in Seabrook and Rye. At the former, the number of active nests dropped from 18 to 11, but collectively these produced more young (50 vs. 44 last year).

The Awcomin Marsh colony in Rye doubled in size to eight nests, and these produced 33 young. So although there were fewer nests, the number of fledgling martins increased by almost a third to 83 – a new record since we started keeping more accurate records in 2014. The spring was again marked by some cold and wet weather, this time right around when birds were arriving from the south. Such conditions can result in mortality when martins can’t find food, so this year volunteers supplied mealworms and dried crickets by placing them in the gourds. This appeared to work, and no mortality was noted.

At other sites in the Seacoast, martins showed early interest in the Portsmouth Country Club but failed to nest this year (there was a single pair in 2018). In Hampton, encroaching vegetation and increasing numbers of House Sparrows resulted in our moving the Island Path gourd array from dry land to the nearby marsh. After no signs of martins last year, early nests were noted in three gourds in 2019, but none resulted in full nesting attempts. Finally, in early May a new gourd array was installed at The Nature Conservancy’s Lubberland Creek Preserve in Newmarket. This site is not too far from the Portsmouth Country Club (PCC), and is a great location in an open field close to Great Bay. With the record productivity at the active colonies in 2019, we have high hopes that lots of young birds will be returning and looking for nest sites in 2020!

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Founded in 1914, NH Audubon’s mission is to protect New Hampshire’s natural environment for wildlife and for people. It is an independent statewide membership organization with four nature centers throughout the state. Expert educators give programs to children, families, and adults at centers and in schools. Staff biologists and volunteers conduct bird conservation efforts such as the Peregrine Falcon restoration. NH Audubon protects thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and is a voice for sound public policy on environmental issues. For information on NH Audubon, including membership, volunteering, programs, sanctuaries, and publications, call 224-9909, or visit www.nhaudubon.org.