Purple martins are beginning to return to their roost at the west end of the old Manns Harbor bridge. By the end of July the number of birds at the site is expected to be close to 100,000.
During the roosting season, N.C. Department of Transportation activates flashing lights and a 20 mph speed limit on the west end of the bridge at sunrise and sunset. The reduced speed limit, monitored by law enforcement, allows safe travel for both motorists and birds.
The newer Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge is an alternative route between Manns Harbor and Roanoke Island during the hours the birds are active.
During this annual natural phenomenon, martins swarm the bridge in flocks so large they are seen by Doppler radar. Martins who have raised their young during the spring in colonies managed by humans come here from as far away as 150 miles. The birds roost at the bridge to protect their newly fledged young and prepare for their journey to Brazil in late summer. The birds roost under the bridge at night, leave at sunrise to fly over the coastal plan to feed during the day, then return at sunset.
The Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society will conduct educational experiences at the west end of the bridge and aboard the Crystal Dawn headboat. Bridge talks will take place at sunset Thursdays and Saturdays on July 20, July 22, July 27 and July 29. For more information, visit www.purplemartinroost.com, send e-mail to [email protected] or call 252-473-1493.
Sunset cruises aboard the Crystal Dawn are set for Thursdays and Saturdays on July 20, July 22, July 27 and July 29. Tickets are $30 per person. The tour leaves from Pirates Cove Marina between Nags Head and Manteo at 7 p.m. and returns at approximately 9:30 p.m. Feel free to bring binoculars and your own picnic. If cancelled for weather or low reservations, tickets are refunded. For tickets and more information, contact Crystal Dawn at 252-473-5577 or www.crystaldawnheadboat.com