Wall is work­ing for martins

Middlesbrough Herald & Post - - HERALD & POST -

IT ap­pears to have been a very good year for Cleve­land’s sand martins.

By all ac­counts there have been plenty of nests at our var­i­ous breed­ing lo­ca­tions with a good num­ber of fledglings suc­cess­fully tak­ing to the air.

The Red­car colony has done very well, I’m told, while I’ve no­ticed one or two oth­ers in the re­gion where sand martins have been par­tic­u­larly ac­tive.

The ar­ti­fi­cial sand martin wall at RSPB Saltholme has again been very pro­duc­tive with maybe bet­ter suc­cess than last year.

Last sum­mer a mag­pie was reg­u­larly perched on a post out­side of the wall wait­ing for young­sters to emerge, in the hope of pick­ing them off. The post is no longer avail­able for perch­ing on, which has re­duced the mag­pie men­ace.

One prob­lem this year was that quite a few of the young sand martins emerged from the wall for the very first time dur­ing heavy winds.

As a re­sult they strug­gled to stay in the air and quite a few of them ended up in the wa­ter in front of the wall, which is de­signed to de­ter preda­tors.

For­tu­nately the RSPB staff were bril­liant and spent some time re­triev­ing the baby sand martins from the wa­ter, dry­ing them out and then re­leas­ing them dur­ing lighter winds.

This su­perb photo of two sand martins was taken by John Money.

Sand martins are the small­est mem­ber of the hirun­dine fam­ily, which cov­ers martins and swal­lows, and to the un­trained eye can be con­fused with swal­low.

Sand martins, how­ever, are brown and white and much smaller than swal­lows, which are blue­black with a red­dish face and long tail stream­ers.

It’s amaz­ing that these tiny birds will soon be fly­ing all the way to Africa, where they have faced prob­lems in re­cent years be­cause of droughts. No such prob­lem in Bri­tain.

The sand martins will be­gin leav­ing us next month, though the an­nual mi­gra­tion back to Africa is al­most com­pleted for some of our other sum­mer vis­i­tors.

In fact the adult cuck­oos which have spent the last three months with us have set off on their long jour­ney. All that re­mains now is for the young cuck­oos to build up enough strength to fol­low them.

The young cuck­oos, who will never know their real par­ents, tend to gather in low­land ar­eas in Au­gust. So there is al­ways a chance that you will spot one perched on a post dur­ing a coastal walk next month.

Eric would like to hear from read­ers about what they have seen. Email him at eric.pay­lor@gmail.com

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