Banded Purple Martins at
the Gastown Racetrack Colony
Armstrong Co., PA
Purple Martin Preservation Alliance
On the morning of
June 30th, 2004, I took my high power spotting scope to the only known Purple
Martin colony in Armstrong Co., PA, at the Gastown Racetrack near Shelocta, PA.
This 15 pair colony was discovered and is managed by Duke Snyder of the Purple
Martin Preservation Alliance. I saw eleven banded martins that morning and was
able to read their leg bands with my spotting scope. Four were banded at
the racetrack colony in the prior two years, but the other seven were from other
colonies. Most came from colonies within a 50 mile radius, but one came
from over 130 miles west. The map below shows the locations that they came
One might ask why all the banded martins at this site came from a westerly direction. The explanation is simple: with the exception of two one pair sites discovered in 2004, no colonies are known to exist in a multi-county area to the east of the Gastown colony; therefore, no martins were banded in the 50 mile area to the east of the racetrack site. In fact, The closest known colonies to the east of Gastown are near State College, PA, in Centre Co., about 80 miles away.
When Duke discovered this site several years ago, it consisted of about eight pairs in one old unmodified Trio Castle on an 8 ft pole. Duke has added several houses and a gourd rack while keeping the Trio, to which he has added owl guards and a climbing animal guard. The site has grown to about 15 pair, thanks to Duke's efforts.