Sand martin citizen survey now live!

Take part and help sand martin conservation

WWT Washington are asking visitors to take part in a citizen survey at their newly opened Vic Robins hide, to help track the movement of sand martin around their artificial bank.

The artificial bank, which has space for one hundred and five nesting pairs, was built in October last year in anticipation of the migratory birds’ return this spring.

Visitors have already been seeing lots of sand martin flying around the east end of the reserve’s Wader Lake, with many spotted perched around and going inside several of the openings, with fantastic views being had from the recently opened Vic Robins hide.

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Sand martin around the artificial bank with several inside the openings © Mark Whitelock

Sand martins (Riparia riparia) – the smallest of the European hirundine family, which includes swallows and house martins – typically hunt and feed over the site’s Wader Lake in spring. They’ve previously been noted attempting to dig natural nesting chambers nearby in the sandy banks of the River Wear, but with no success.

It’s hoped that the newly introduced artificial bank - made from cavity blocks fitted with nesting tubes - will provide the perfect conditions for the species to finally settle and breed on the site for the first time in the site’s 49-year history.

Signs so far have been promising with birds spotted taking nesting materials into the chambers. But the wetland centre are asking for the public to help monitor the species.

WWT Washington’s Reserve Manager, John Gowland said:

“By helping us to gather this data, people taking part in the citizen survey are a part of the global community, working to protect wetlands and the species that reply upon them.”

The sand martin bank is part of on-going habitat management around Wader Lake, which over the last 3 years has already benefitted from desilting work, deepened water channels and more effective vegetation management.

This work is to improve the area for a variety of wildlife, whilst creating a more enhanced wildlife viewing experience for visitors to enjoy while at Washington Wetland Centre.

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A sand martin survey card, which can be picked up at the Vic Robins Hide

How you can help:

WWT Washington is now asking visitors to help be their eyes and ears throughout the day to track the movement of sand martin around the artificial bank.

The aim of the survey is to help the Wearside wetland reserve monitor sand martin activity and build a picture of the number of migrating birds going in and out of the chambers and if so which ones they are using by completing a reference grid.

Survey cards can be found inside the Vic Robins hide on Wader Lake where visitors have the perfect viewing point of the new bank and the returning sand martin.

With your help, at the end of summer, the team at WWT Washington will be able to have measured the success of the new sand martin artificial bank, including how many pairs and potential fledged young have been recorded in its first year.

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