Tuesday, June 30, 2015

More Smarties

On Tuesday morning I left the builders to finish off our bathroom upgrade and went in search of another set of British Builders, the Sand Martins at our Cockerham gravel pit colony.

Sand Martins build their nests at the end of tunnels up to four feet in length, the passages bored into sand or gravel by using their beak, feet and wings. Sand Martins are very sociable in their nesting habits whereby anywhere between a dozen and several hundred pairs nest close together in the likes of sandy river banks, cliffs or gravel pits. 

This species is unusually difficult to monitor, because active and inactive nest holes are hard to distinguish, and because whole colonies frequently disperse or shift to new locations as suitable sand cliffs are created and destroyed by natural causes, occasionally by interference or even on occasion by predation. 

Sand Martin colony

Although the Cockerham colony is not huge it is certainly the biggest in the local area. On preparatory visits for 2015 in the latter part of May we estimated 100+ nest holes and approximately 200 Sand Martins in the immediate area. A week or two later and in early June Andy, Craig and I went on to catch 85 mostly adult birds during a ringing session. Tuesday was the follow-up visit and Andy and I reckoned there could be a good number of fresh juveniles ready to be ringed plus a chance of capturing more adults. 

Sand Martin

Today we totalled 88 birds comprising 62 new birds, 5 birds previously ringed elsewhere (controls) and 21 recaptures from our previous visit of 12th June. Of the 62 new birds, 18 were juvenile birds and 44 adults. The five “controls” all bore rings beginning Z401, the similar numbers far from coincidental as we are sure they were ringed by other ringers at Sand Martin colonies about 20/25 miles to the north along the River Lune. 

Sand Martin

Catching and processing 88 Sand Martins kept the two of us busy but in between times the other birds we saw included 2 Common Terns overflying the water plus resident Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Coot and a number of breeding Oystercatchers. One pair of Oystercatcher has a late nest containing 2 eggs in a very busy part of the farm where only time will tell if their gamble pays off. 

Oystercatcher nest


The approximately 250 Sand Martins on site vastly outnumbered the few Swallows in residence around the farm buildings.

More news and views of birds soon. In the meantime I'm linking to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.


Linda said...

Another great series, Phil. The Sand Martin is adorable! :)

eileeninmd said...

Hi Phil, awesome birds and post. The nesting holes of the Martins are neat. They remind me of the Bank Swallows here, they nest the same way. Happy Birding, enjoy your day!

Mary Cromer said...

Oh Phil, they are just wonderful birds and I had never heard of them that I can recall. Their nesting tunnels and holes look incredible and I am just taken by their beauty. The Swallow of course is glorious and the Oystercatcher, oh my bless them for placing those eggs in such a place. We are upgrading our dining room floor and that has been a real mess, sanding does cause great dust no matter the preps and it is awful. Hope your alls bathroom upgrade goes far easier~

David Gascoigne said...

Sand Martins are generally referred to as Bank Swallows here, as I am sure you know. Their populations have declined in recent years and active colonies are hard to find. At one location I bird several times a year there was a huge mountain of sand left over from some construction project I assume, and a decent colony occupied it. A couple of years ago the sand was removed and so a great location was lost. In the same area (it is called Snyder's Flats) there is a grassland with one of the few reliable areas to find Eastern Meadowlark and other grassland species. And what do you think the local conservation authority is doing? Planting trees! They have people called ecologists on staff, but I am not sure what their grasp of ecology is!

Silver Parrot said...

It's always fascinating to see the results of your ringing outings. I'm amazed at how the birds sit so calmly on your hand. Great photos!

Adam Jones said...

I love watching and hearing the Sand Martins on my patch. They make a great noise and their presence is missed when they head back home in Autumn. Nice to see one in the hand like that.

Margaret Adamson said...

Wonderful seires. Great shots. Loved seeing the sand Martin in hand

Felicia said...

the sand martins are very pretty. we have purple martins in the area where I live.

Marie C said...

Lovely post. The sand martin is so small! Enjoyed reading about the swallow nests.

Chris Rohrer said...

I think I will venture out today to try and find the Purple Martins at a local park. Banding these guys is not an easy task! The Audubon center here tried last year to do this and it did not work. They are so fast! And partly our Purple Martins nest in Saguaro Cactus making it even trickier. Every time you put a camera into a hole, you never know who will be looking back at you....Gila Woodpeckers, Gilded Flickers, Elf or Screech Owls, Starlings OR Martins:) I did not know about Sand Martins so again thanks for documenting your ringing session. Always learn something new here:)

Sabino Silva. said...

Hola, felicidades por su blog. mi nombre es Sabino Silva, vivo en la isla de Coche en Venezuela y actualmente estoy recopilando información sobre las especies de aves que se pueden observar en esta árida isla del oriente venezolano. Por los momentos solo me interesa registrar las especies y no tomar fotografias de calidad, sobre todo porque poseeo una modesta camara que no ayuda mucho y mi principal objetivo es su conservacion. quisiera si puede visitar mi blog y cualquier comentario al respecto seria bien recibido. Saludos desde Venezuela. http://avesisladecoche.blogspot.com/

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