Urban birding for the BTO


I took a leaf out of David Lindo’s book and went urban birding. Well, actually, it was the BTO House Martin survey and I had volunteered to visit lots of houses in Corby.  Blackbird Road (off Dunnock Road) and near Robin Road, and with Jackdaw, Flycatcher, Fieldfare, Thrush, Nuthatch, Lapwing, Siskin, Magpie and Lark closes and roads also available, seemed promising.

It feels a little odd driving around a housing estate and looking up at people’s roofs – it must look as though I am looking at their bedroom windows! However, on neither score was anything spectacular seen. I didn’t see a single House Martin, but I still had another housing estate to cover which included delightfully West Country names such as Lundy Close, Tavistock Square and Clovelly Square – but when I got there I drew another blank.

Lots of houses but no House Martins. This did make the whole process quite a lot quicker! Imagine how long it would have taken if the houses had all had a House Martin nest or two on them – I’d still be there.  But I guess I was a little surprised. I stopped several times and scanned the skies hoping to see a House Martin, but I saw none at all during a couple of hours looking for them.

It made me feel lucky to live in a street where House Martins do nest.

As we all know, negative data are (often) just as important as positive data, and it’s not as though I’ve never seen a House Martin before, but it’s difficult not to feel a little disappointed by the lack of the species for which one was looking. Did I miss them? Am I just rubbish?


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9 Replies to “Urban birding for the BTO”

  1. We had the same experience Mark and know how you feel, but ours was farms/farmland, so very disappointing, the Swallows were thee though.

  2. The results of this initial survey will be interesting Mark. I have done my two squares in rural location in West Yorkshire and drew a complete blank in both with the exception of one house which had 28 active nests under the eaves. Talk about communal nesting!

  3. I may have had one of the easiest squares in the survey. A single barn viewable from the roadside in the Yorkshire Dales. Completely unsurprised at no House Martins, though as Mark says, a Nil count, useful as it is, can be slightly disappointing. Took all of 10 mins to complete.

  4. We have them for the first time in 18 years, and we suspect because neighbours replaced wooded eaves with plastic or whatever that stuff is. Before they had them and we envied.
    Have only one nest but planning to add artificial ones at the end of the season, hopefully for next year.

  5. Until a few months ago we lived on that estate Mark and I can confirm that you did not miss anything...but there are purple emperors less than 400 metres from that spot, so not all bad! In the "waxwing year" a few years ago, they were on the roofs of houses in that area as well.

  6. You're not alone - my BTO square was full of houses with plenty of overhanging eaves, but not a house martin to be seen.

  7. Mark,
    My square is north of Southampton and contains several new housing developments with a wide range of housing including 4 storey apartment blocks.
    I use my bike to survey the block and this allows me to follow the Martins back to their nests quite easily. They tend to feed in small groups outside of the square and then return to their nests on a regular basis. I have recorded 13 nest locations so far however find new ones during each visit.


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