Male purple martin waiting for female to back out before feeding wasp to chicks (photo © Andrew Reding)

Male purple martin waiting for female to back out before feeding wasp to chicks (photo © Andrew Reding)

Purple martin Project

Admiralty Audubon has been working for more than a decade to restore a healthy population of Purple Martins to Port Townsend. Nesting boxes at the Boat Haven have seen nesting martins every year since 2005, although high mortality of nestlings occurred in 2009 and no fledglings were observed. A bountiful generation of Purple Martins fledged in the five Boat Haven boxes in 2012, and successful clutches have been observed each year since. Some of our 2012 martins were from British Columbia, as leg bands were identified by BC biologists from photographs taken here.

Purple Martins are aerial insectivores, feeding only on flying insects. The largest of the swallows, they are a species of concern in our area from loss of dead snags along the marine shoreline and severe competition from European Starlings and House Sparrows. Purple Martins are typically present in Port Townsend from May thru August. During summer they can be heard calling overhead. To learn their distinctive call, visit Seattle Audubon's for an audio recording. Besides finding them feeding overhead you can look for the martins perched on electric wires and boat masts at the Port Townsend Boat Haven. In late August during evening watch for them hawking the orange Pacific Wet Wood Termites along the waterfront around the PT Boat Haven.

Join the Admiralty Audubon Purple Martin Project to help manage the nest boxes and to join in the excitement during fledging of new martins. AAS thanks all volunteers who have assisted in this project to date, in particular Jay Brevik, Stan Kostka, and a Pacific Northwest Trails Association crew that participated in the construction of boxes currently at Kah Tai Lagoon and the Fort Worden Pier. Contact Ron Sikes at 385-0307 or email If you live by the shoreline you could steward your own Purple Martin nest box. Admiralty Audubon has boxes available. 


Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park with Jefferson County Courthouse in background (photo © Andrew Reding).

Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park with Jefferson County Courthouse in background (photo © Andrew Reding).

Kah Tai lagoon Nature Park

Admiralty Audubon's newest project at Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park involves planting the section of Garfield Street right of way that abuts the lagoon along the northeast shoreline with native plant species to improve the most protected nesting habitat in the park. All private parcels that were intended to be in the park when it was created by a federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant in 1981 required willing sellers, so not all intended parcels were available for purchase at the time of the park's creation. In 2016, two of those desired private parcels on the northeast perimeter of the lagoon came up for sale and Admiralty Audubon members purchased them with the intention of adding them to the park. The two parcels abut the Garfield ROW, which is already within the 6f(3) federally protected boundary. Chapter members refer to the area as "Duck Heaven."

Admiralty Audubon has been involved in the area now known as Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park since before the park was created. Admiralty Audubon is listed among the groups identifying Kah Tai Lagoon as an "area of concern" threatened by development in the US Fish and Wildlife's 1978 report Important Fish and Wildlife Habitats of Washington. Originally a tidal marsh, the area south of what is now Kah Tai Lagoon was filled with dredge spoils from the Boat Haven expansion in 1964. In 1977 the Port of Port Townsend proposed a commercial development to be built on the spoils. The plan was voted down by Port Townsend City Council because of deficiencies in the application.

In 1979, citizens elected City Council and Port Commission members in favor of preservation. The City and Port co-sponsored a 1981 LWCF acquisition grant from the National Park Service and the State Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation (IAC) to purchase private parcels around the Lagoon and combine them with public lands to create a park of nearly 80 acres. Although the proposal missed the cut for funding through regular channels, the threatened status of the area qualified the proposal for funding from the Secretary of the Interior's Contingency Reserve Fund. LWCF funding regulations confer protections of perpetuity for the entire park.

In 1982 the Port Townsend City Council approved a development plan for a "nature-oriented park at Kah Tai Lagoon, providing opportunities for compatible recreational uses" as described in the LWCF acquisition grant, and submitted an application for a development grant to IAC. Since transfer of public lands from the Port to the City had not yet occurred as originally intended in the acquisition grant, the City and Port signed a 30-year lease in the summer of 1982 so that the City could demonstrate control of all the park land and the Port in turn gained leasehold control of significant City-owned rights of way in the Boat Haven. Elements of the park plan that have been realized include development of trails, berms, plantings, a play meadow, picnic shelter, parking, and restrooms on the south side of the lagoon. Among the original plan elements yet to be completed is the restoration of a wetland in the southeast corner of the park uplands.

More recently, questions about the perpetual easements conferred by the LWCF grant led to a lengthy examination of 30 years of records at the state and federal level, since local government records had been lost. On 7 September 2011, the State Recreation and Conservation Office (formerly IAC) recommended that all the acreage described in the original grant documents be included within the federally-defined 6(f)(3) boundary that provides perpetual protection. On 27 September 2011, the National Park Service ruled that all lands within the original boundary are protected by LWCF stipulations. Those easements have now been recorded to title for all park parcels and the Port has transferred their park parcels to the City as was intended in 1981.

From the beginning, citizen involvement in the park focused on planting native plants. As natives took root, invasive weed removal also played an important role. Over 500 native plants were introduced in 2005-2006 by Admiralty Audubon. Installation of drip irrigation to the seedlings along the south shore improved survival of the plantings. Without irrigation the new plantings had in previous years suffered a high mortality rate. Planting efforts have added to the diversity of the inventory, and more recently the Chapter pots up bare root plants from the annual Jefferson County Conservation District sale and supports them with irrigation and protection from predation for a year prior to planting. The chapter has erected nest boxes for chickadees, swallows, hooded mergansers and purple martins. With chapter guidance, OPEPO School built and erected bat roost boxes during spring 2011.

The Chapter continues to lead work parties to control invasive weeds such as common broom, spurge laurel, English ivy, European holly, and Armenian (misnamed Himalayan) blackberry, and to maintain native plantings. If you would like to participate in work parties or help the park in other ways, call (360) 385-0307 or email