When I was a little girl, a pair of house martins came and nested outside my bedroom window. I was so fascinated by these tiny birds; I spent hours watching them build their nest. Did you know each nest uses 1,000 beak-sized pellets of mud? As the days grew longer the female laid her eggs and before I knew it I was being abruptly awoken every morning by the sound a chicks cheeping for food. As summer drew to a close, it was time for the now juvenile birds and their parents to leave on their migration to South Africa. I remember waiting for their return the year after but sadly they did not appear, in fact I never had house martins nesting outside my bedroom window ever again.
It is estimated that house martin numbers have declined by over 65% in over 40 years and we don’t really know why. We know surprisingly little about house martins despite the fact that they breed alongside us, using our houses on which to build a nest. Important information about house martin numbers and breeding activity is needed now and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) are beginning a two part survey starting next year.
BTO aim to discover more about house martins to help us identify why they are declining and provide scientific evidence to help inform policy decisions that could reverse the declines. The house martin survey over the next two years will collect more information on population size, breeding ecology and habitat preferences, so we can begin to tackle some key questions about this eagerly awaited summer visitor. If you would like to find out more about how to get involved with this survey, please visit the BTO website and register your interest – www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/house-martin-survey.
Laura Preston – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Falls of Clyde Ranger