This sound system is for the birds!
WWT Arundel Wetland Centre is broadcasting the shrieks of a busy sand martin colony to attract the migrating martins to the artificial nesting banks on the reserve. “It’s probably a bit louder than an actual colony would sound, but it should get their attention” said Paul Stevens, Reserve Warden at Arundel Wetland Centre. A new water resistant sound system, originally designed for marine craft, has been installed inside the Sand Martin Hide. Sand martins have just started to arrive back into the Arun Valley this week, after spending the winter in Africa.
The digital audio system has a closed compartment that houses an iPod to blast out the audio lure during the daylight hours. A waterproof speaker is mounted outside on the artificial nesting banks that angle out from a central viewing part of this specialist hide. There are over 300 pre-drilled nesting holes in these banks for the birds to use. These nesting chambers are filled with sand and have removable ‘back doors’ that will allow WWT staff to monitor the birds. The hide is rendered inside and out to resemble natural sand banks, complete with hanging roots and a bumpy, tactile finish. The volume of the sand martin soundtrack isn’t too loud for visitors inside the hide but the sound really carries across the water at the wetland reserve.
The Sir Peter Scott Centenary Sand Martin hide opened in April 2010 but needed a year to settle and for the smells of the construction materials to dissipate before it attracted its first residents in April 2011. Two pairs of Sand Martins investigated the nesting holes last Easter. One of the pairs began nest building in the left bank but sadly the pair abandoned the nest after a few weeks. “Sand martins are social birds that like to nest near each other.” continues Paul Stevens. “They will return to their natal colony each year so all we need is a few pairs to nest in our hide banks to make the start of a colony here at Arundel Wetland Centre.”
Juvenile sand martins from the large colony at the nearby Storrington sand pits were observed checking out the hide at Arundel Wetland Centre on the southward leg of their autumn migration in August 2011. “Young martins use the autumn migration to scout for new nesting sites when their colony reaches capacity.” Paul Stevens said.