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Welcoming the Sand Martins back from Africa

Habitat First Group have recently been getting things ready to welcome Sand martins back from Africa. 

The Sand martin (Riparia riparia) is a tiny earth-brown and white bird that arrives from Africa as early as mid-March. Following severe droughts in Africa in the late ’60s and again in the early ’80s, the Sand martin population declined to just 1/10th of its original size. Despite their populations recovering, it is important that we take steps to boost the numbers of these amazing little birds. 

Sand martins are common visitors to sand quarries where they use their tiny beaks and feet to excavate tunnels and nesting chambers deep in the sand faces. In its former days as Warmwell Quarry, Silverlake was host to breeding Sand martins every year. When the quarrying stopped and Habitat First Group took over the old quarry they retained the last sand face that the Sand martins had used and integrated it into the development. Year on year the Sand martins have come back but, with over 240 nesting pairs each year, the sand face has begun to erode. To make sure there is room for the birds to nest after their long flight from Africa we have now installed artificial nesting banks for them. These structures are created with pipes leading to nesting chambers and each of these is packed full of sand for the birds to excavate. In time we hope these will be used and that we will be able to ring any young birds to help with monitoring studies.

Over at Lower Mill Estate, we have also put up these artificial nesting sites to attract the Sand martins that arrive in the Cotswold Water Park every year. With quarrying reducing in the Cotswold Water Park there are fewer nesting sites for the Sand martins and we want to make sure there will always be places for these fabulous little birds to nest. 

Lower Mill Estate is also home to what is thought to be the UK’s biggest population of House martins thanks to conservation efforts that have been going on for over 15 years. Swifts are also getting a helping hand with swift nesting towers at both Silverlake and Lower Mill Estate and a swift brick being installed in every new house we build at any of our sites. 

We will keep you updated on how all of our African visitors are doing.