Sand Martins at Silverlake

Immerse yourself
A rundown of the very important work that Dr Phoebe, Will, Gareth and Steve have been doing to protect the Sand Martin face at Silverlake.

Sand martins (Riparia riparia) are the smallest of the martins and swallows that visit the UK every year to breed. Arriving from Africa around March/April these agile fliers search out places where they can nest in colonies. Sand quarries have always attracted these little birds with the vertical sand faces, created as part of quarrying activities, making ideal places for these birds to excavate their nest holes. Over the last 50 years, the European population of sand martins has declined on two occasions as a result of drought in their wintering grounds in Africa.

In its quarrying days, Silverlake annually hosted good numbers of sand martins, who nested on site. Determined to help conserve these birds and ensure they continue visiting Silverlake, Habitat First retained the last sand face that the birds had nested in and have built it into the development. In 2018, an incredible 205 pairs returned to nest in this sand face, brightening every day over the summer with their non-stop activity over the lakes and villages at Silverlake.

Over this Winter the sand face took a bit of a beating with the storms causing the face to be undercut by wave wash from the lake.  With the sand martins due to arrive in the next few weeks, our amazing ground staff headed out in all weathers to protect the sand face. Using faggots and stakes they have managed to minimise wave wash and protect the sand face for the future. They also took the chance to install some artificial nest tubes into parts of the sand face that the birds haven’t used yet, in the hope this will encourage more nesting.

With plans for artificial sand martin walls in other areas of the estate, we hope that we will continue to see these wonderful little birds at Silverlake for many, many years to come.

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