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08 Aug 2017

Sand martin nest, kingfishers return & martins on the move

Sand martins checking out nest holes in the sand martin hide in previous years.

This is the weekly wildlife sightings blog by Reserve Manager Paul Stevens.

When sand martins began to check out the holes in our artificial nesting banks built into the Sand Martin hide we made the decision to temporarily close the hide in mud-June. One pair of martins stayed and built a nest in one if the deep holes we had packed with sand. Looking through the small back door to their nesting chamber I was able to count five eggs in their nest. I kept watch on the nest from the Ramsar hide opposite. In late July I spotted the adults bringing food and carry faecal sacs away from the nest. Eventually I spotted the head of a chick emerge from the nest hole to grab food from a returning parent. We know there is at least one chick, and it should be fledging soon!

We hope this nest will mark the beginning of a sand martin colony here at Arundel. We have waited six years for martins to nest successfully here.  The autumn martin migration has already begun and we are seeing small groups of sand and house martins mixed with swallows moving through our reserve in small groups. They often stop for a feed at Arundel Wetland Centre to bolster them on their long journey to Africa, finding many insects over the water on cloudy cooler days. A few swifts have been spotted moving through as well.

The groups of hirundines moving through have attracted a hobby onsite, likely following the flocks for food of its own. Bird of prey are plenty on the reserve now. We hit a peak of nine buzzards on the weekend with sparrow hawk, kestrel, peregrine, marsh harrier and a red kite all sighted last week showing that the birds of prey species are healthy and finding plenty of food.