Middlesbrough Herald & Post

Wall is working for martins

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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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