Two mornings of Sand Martins

I haven’t been out much recently but yesterday morning I had a walk around my local patch of Stanwick Lakes and the star bird was the Sand Martin – there were hundreds of them!

Sand Martin – in flight meal. Photo: Tim Melling

In fact, a local birder who gets out earlier than I, said he reckoned there had been 1000 a little earlier. There were still hundreds and hundreds of these small brown and white hirundines that will have spent our winter in places such as Senegal in West Africa.

They have made the tough journey back to the UK and were at my local patch in their hundreds on a cold April morning with a northeasterly wind. But there were lots of insects in the air, and the Sand Martins were feeding on them, as were just a few Swallows too, in the more sheltered lee of any trees.

Migration is an awe-inspiring phenomenon – the distances these small birds have covered since I last saw them over the lakes in August/September are simply amazing. If only they could talk and tell us of their travels.

But if they could talk then they might have a word or two for we humans. You may have noticed that there has been a bit of a hoo-ha over the netting off of a Sand Martin colony in North Norfolk – see here, here, here. Indeed, Martin Harper, the RSPB Conservation Director, is going to have a look for himself today: Martin and the martins, no less.

Norfolk Council do have a point – they haven’t behaved completely awfully – see here – but the case of the migrants prevented from making their homes here has touched the nation’s heart.

By the time I went back for a walk at Stanwick Lakes this morning the e-petition calling for protection for bird nesting sites as well as nests had acquired over 53,000 signatures.

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5 Replies to “Two mornings of Sand Martins”

  1. Great photo – one of the many simple delights Nature gives us… This lovely little bird, just doing what it does… flying, eating, migrating, inspiring, and lifting our hearts and souls as we look up and connect with its beauty…. Sadly a few of us need a bit more help with ‘how to connect’.

  2. There’s a small train station somewhere in Fife where sand martins are breeding in what must be pipes in a wall. It was wonderful to see, I’m pretty certain it was an ‘accident’ rather than design, but there must be a lot of scope to do this deliberately. Some of you might be familiar with the Helix project between Falkirk and Grangemouth and the rather bland central feature the lake which is just a big round concrete banked hole with water in it. When the public consultation for the Helix was taking place about ten years ago now I can’t recall one person who was happy with the ‘lake’, there was only one design put forward and we all ended up having to lump it, it was clearly what the Helix people wanted. Some of us had suggested something natural, wildlife friendly and far more interesting for visitors which was only fair as the Helix was referring to itself as an ‘eco park’ then! One suggestion was that the lake could contain small islands that rare birds could breed on – principally kingfishers and sand martins. What a loss of a brilliant opportunity lost for what exactly – a round hole with water in it? Glad to say a new team has taken over at the Helix and they seem to be genuinely enthusiastic about creating real wildlife habitat there, but almost certainly too late for the kingfishers and sand martins.

  3. When will the sand martins be finished nesting..
    On the news last night said they were doing 1.5km of beach. Could they start away from the nests. The sand will presumably be dumped by hose from a boat offshore, which has to go off an refill or maybe they have good sand there.
    If my memory seves me the boat doing Southwold beach was there for months.
    They think there is a suitable site further along ,ref your link (I hope the sand martins agree) surely they should have bored a few attractive holes there in mitigation, rather than saying “on your bike mate and build a new house” Would have been a nice gesture

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