Photo: My summer with the purple martins

Preparing to band baby birds at Newcastle Island

As a teenager living on Vancouver Island my life is full of adventures involving the ocean. This past summer, I was given the very unique opportunity to work with local biologists, helping to monitor and record purple martin nest boxes around Vancouver Island.

I spent my days from dawn to dusk sitting in a little boat on the ocean, while recording all sorts of information on the birds. Every day we traveled somewhere new in the little boat—Hornby Island, Mill Bay, Royston, Fanny Bay, Port Alberni, Newcastle Island and everywhere in between.

During these times, I got to see the most beautiful and remote places Vancouver Island has to offer. The sunsets were spectacular! It felt like I was living inside of a very bold and beautiful painting, with the ocean as my backdrop.

My work with the purple martins was very interesting as well. I got to hold the baby birds while they were being banded for future data. I once even had to rescue a little martin who had fallen into the ocean and dry him off with a paper towel (we called this a bird burrito). I learned a lot about the importance of the ocean in the lives of these birds as well...It is so vital for their well-being.

While we were recording data and banding the baby birds it was not uncommon for a sea otter, blue heron, seal or osprey to become interested in what we were doing in our boat, and so we often had little visitors during our banding sessions.

I was able to experience the ocean in a way I hadn't before; I felt a powerful connection with it at this time. I often talked to travelers at the many different marinas we visited and it was always a pleasure to hear their adventure stories and educate them about the purple martins. At night, I would go home reeking of sea weed and bird poop, but I always walked in the front door with a smile on my face to greet my parents.

The sound of waves splashing and purple martins singing always brings my memories back to the summer. And soon my days of cuddling little birds and cruising around the shores of Vancouver Island were at an end.

All my life I have lived here on Vancouver Island, but I have never been quite so connected with the ocean as I was in those 2 months of nautical bliss. I have missed the purple martins, as well as the marvelous friends I had made on the adventure. I miss watching the sunset over the coast while sitting in that little cozy boat with not a single care in the world.

The ocean is not to be feared but respected. It is the very thing that has ultimately created our culture here on the coast. It deserves to be treated with all care we as human beings can muster, because it is one of the most valuable and irreplaceable things we have here in Canada.

Message to Canadians: Everyone needs to do their part and help keep our oceans clean for all to enjoy.

By Ashley Wilson

Nanaimo, BC

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