A baby purple martin is tagged by a volunteer during a monitoring and banding effort at Blackie Spit earlier this summer.

A baby purple martin is tagged by a volunteer during a monitoring and banding effort at Blackie Spit earlier this summer.

Volunteers band together for purple martins

Volunteers with Crescent Beach’s Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue assist in monitoring and banding nestlings.

An effort this summer by emergency crews on the waters off Blackie Spit wasn’t your typical marine rescue operation.

On July 23 and Aug. 6, volunteers with Crescent Beach’s Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue team helped with the monitoring and banding of baby purple martins – North America’s largest species of swallow.

The annual effort – in which 102 nestlings in 29 nests were banded – helps track the population’s migration and dispersal; a population that, in the early 1980s, was at less than 10 breeding pairs in B.C.

Recovery efforts such as that assisted by the RCM-SAR5 team this summer – led by volunteers from the B.C. Purple Martin Stewardship and Recovery Program – have helped it rebound to approximately 900 pairs on the south coast of B.C.

On the two recent outings, the RCM-SAR5 crew maneuvered their dedicated vessel alongside old wood pilings at the mouth of the Nicomekl River to enable the stewardship team to access 34 nest boxes that are perched on the pilings. Twenty-nine of the boxes contained eggs or nestlings, up from 21 nests last year.

For more information on the purple martin recovery program, visit www.georgiabasin.ca/puma.htm