According to the Purple Martin Conservation Association, the Purple Martin is the largest member of the swallow family in the U.S. For a few weeks during the summer, you can see large numbers of these acrobatic birds on Bird Island. This small island in the middle of Lake Ouachita has been named an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the National Audubon Society. Purple Martins roost on the island each summer before making their migration to South America.
Lake Ouachita State Park in Mountain Pine hosts events where you can learn about these beautiful birds including Purple Martin Awareness Weekend August 2-3. As part of this, there will be a talk about these birds at the park visitor center from 2-2:45 on Saturday. That night, there will be a tour of Bird Island via barge from 7:15-9 p.m. During the tour, participants get a chance to see purple martins and other birds that call this island home. Of note, there is no charge for the talk, but there is an admission for the barge tours, which are limited to 20 participants. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for kids ages 6-12. Those under 6 years old can ride for free. There will also be barge tours to Bird Island going out on Sunday night ( Aug. 3) as part of the weekend event.
If you can’t make it to the park that weekend, no worries as more tours have been scheduled for the month. Barge tours to Bird Island will also be venturing out on August 6 ( a Wednesday), August 8 ( a Friday) and Saturday August 9. The time and pricing for the barge tours are the same for each date. I had a chance to check out the island a few years ago and it is a really neat adventure to go on even if you aren’t into birding. Also, here is what a Purple Martin sounds like in case you were wondering.