Over the weekend 20 of us went down to view the Purple Martins that roost under the William B Umstead Bridge, which is the “old” Hwy 64 bridge to Manteo from Wanchese. Between June and September, over 100,000 Purple Martins, from as far away as Virginia spend the nights here before migrating down to South American for the winter. During the day the birds eat insects as they soar over the surrounding islands and farms.
Watching the birds arrive at the roost at night is quite a spectacle: clouds of Martins flying in from all directions! The noise is amazing as they arrange themselves on the I-beams below the bridge. One of the reasons this is such a popular roost is because its above water, which prevents many predators from getting the birds.
The bridge has special flashing speed limit signs warning motorists to slow down for the birds (though sadly, many people do not). There are hopes that maybe a fence can be put up. Dare county is going to build a viewing platform at the Wanchese end of the bridge for folks to watch the birds from.
For more information, check out The Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society’s webpage. Thanks to everyone who came on the trip this weekend!