On Saturday, August 27, 2022, I was invited to join the NE Chapter to go on a boat trip sponsored by the Portage Lakes Purple Martin Association (PLPMA).  We arrived a bit early and met the advisors, Liz McQuaid and “Buster” Banish, and the volunteers who drove the boat.  As we were waiting for everyone to arrive, we saw Cedar Waxwings and a Herring Gull. 

We split into two groups and got on the boats to go on the Nimilisa Reservior, which is part of the Portage Lakes. 

On the way to the first point of interest, highlight species included American Coot, several Ospreys, and a Bald Eagle. 

The first stop was a small island, where a group of Double-Crested Cormorants was roosting on several dead trees.  The guide told us that a group of cormorants is called a gulp.  I wondered why so many of the trees were dead, and I later did research to discover that cormorant guano is acidic and kills vegetation and trees.

As it moved toward dusk, we began to see a few Martins wheeling about.  The boat took us to the roosting area, where we found many kayakers already waiting to see the display.  Unfortunately, not all the kayakers were respectful.   They were very loud and went into the reeds where the Martins were going to roost, which was a prohibited area that was marked off with buoys. 

As the sun set on the water, the Martins began to mass, but due to the disturbance, they did not settle in the reeds.  The wheeled about and left to find a more suitable location.

When last Martin had gone, a single Green Heron croaked, and night fell.

Raul Castro-Dean
Raul Castro-Dean

On the boat ride back to the dock, we discussed what had happened.  The PLPMA volunteer speculated that as the popularity of the lake has increased, Purple Martins have started to decline, due to these disturbances.   We talked about possible actions to help raise awareness for people to respect Purple Martins.  The ideas ranged from putting up signs, to roping off the roosting area, to having wildlife officers patrol, to banning kayaks in the evening hours.

Raul Castro-Dean is a member of and Youth Advisor for the Central Ohio Chapter of the Ohio Young Birders. Columhbus Audubon proudly sponsors the Central Ohio Chapter.