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First Ontario Martinfest attracts big crowd



by Sylene Argent

Despite many events taking place on Saturday, the first annual Ontario Martinfest was a big success as it attracted a large crowd out to Colchester Harbour and Park.

  Paul Hamel, who is the President of the Ontario Purple Martin Association, which organized the event, was pleased with the outcome as around 250 people attended the first annual event by mid-afternoon.

  “We are giving out a lot of information and people are interested,” he said of the event, which offered several lectures throughout the day where members of the Association discussed a range of Purple Martin-related topics, including how to attract them, how to house them, and how to identify North America’s largest swallow.   

  Purple Martin numbers are dwindling, locally, and the event was put on as an educational tool that could engage the many individuals who would like to know how they could help. Purple Martins, for instance, need a house to nest. So, club members were onsite to discuss how to offer a house to the bird and how to properly look after them.

  “Purple Martin houses need to be monitored,” Hamel said, noting other birds may try to take over the nests.

  To help with this situation, the Essex Community in Blooms Committee has purchased Purple Martin houses, which are located throughout the municipality. One is located in Colchester Park, McGregor Centre, and in Essex Centre. Just before Saturday’s festivities, a second Purple Martin house, equipped with 14 apartments, was added to Colchester Park. Already, it is estimated seven nesting pairs are utilizing the new home.

  The event also offered an opportunity for event attendees to watch Purple Martins get banded, which will help track the birds in the future. Children’s activities were offered and an assortment of vendors set up shop in the park.

  As admission, event attendees were asked to forward a donation for area food banks.

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