Our Sand Martins (smarties) give us headaches every year. Last year all of their nests were high up the quarry face and out of reach for catching purposes. This proved even more frustrating when regular visits showed peak counts of 250-300 individual and 100 or more active nest holes.
This year, and along with Swallows and House Martins, the Sand Martins arrived late. This year they chose a different part of the quarry face in which to nest and where the number of active tunnels seemed closer to 60 with the numbers of martins no greater than 130.
But, this year’s face has a sheer rather than a sloping profile of loose grand and gravel, so on weighing up the possibilities, we considered it might be possible to catch a few. Chris kindly offered to help out by way of placing some heavy anchorage on the quarry floor with which to secure a single mist net at both ends.
Off we went for an early start when the sun would not light up a mist net. As it was, our net was many feet below the lowest tunnels but in the shade of the quarry face. We had a decent catch of 30 Sand Martins and 1 House Sparrow, the latter very unexpected.
Sand Martin colony
The martins divided as 20 adult males and 10 adult females. This told us that a good number of females were sat tight in the nest holes and that, as yet, there are no fledged youngsters.
Other birds seen this morning – 18 Greylag Goose, 2 Oystercatcher, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 1 Mistle Thrush.