The Ladysmith Marina is home to the largest colony of endangered Western Purple Martins on Vancouver Island. A new sign has been placed at the marina to honour that achievement.
Western Purple Martins are the largest swallow in North America. They breed along the west coast from California to British Columbia. The birds used to nest in cavities of old dead trees, however the affects of logging, forest fires, and industrialization have threatened their habitats. In 1985, Purple Martins were down to five known breeding pairs in B.C.
The LMS Purple Martins were first spotted nesting there in 1989. In 1990, several nest boxes were installed at the marina. By 2002, there were 75 nest boxes, and 35 pairs nested that summer, producing 70 young. By 2018, there were 100 boxes, 75 pairs, and 178 young.
“The birds are fantastic when they come to the marina in the early spring. They create that sense that change is in the air. They’re lovely looking birds, with beautiful colours, and they create a very different atmosphere,” LMS executive director Richard Wiefelspuett said.
Conservation efforts to save the Purple Martins were spearheaded by the Western Purple Martin Foundation, (WPMF), a non-profit society founded in 2006 that is committed to the preservation of the species. WPMF is based in Nanaimo and organizes efforts all over Vancouver Island. The sign was designed by artist Cheryl Bancroft. Charlene Lee of the Georgia Basin Ecological Assessment and Restoration societ in Nanaimo provided information for the sign. Al Moore at Spyder Graphix printed and installed the sign. Dan Lutz, LMS president provided input, and organized society funding for the sign.