Summer may seem a long way off, but the sight of sand martins soaring overhead is one of the many joys of warmer months at Morton Marsh nature reserve. Every year the sand martins arrive in their hundreds – the majority of them passing through after their long journey from sub-Saharan Africa.
Now work is under way to encourage these charismatic birds to extend their stay by constructing a specially-designed nesting bank on the site. Sand martins are one of the earliest to arrive, the first turning up in early March or sometimes even late February. These sociable birds nest in large colonies which may contain hundreds of pairs, and they dig deep burrows in steep, sandy riverbanks and cliffs. The tunnels they bore can be up to a metre in length, and end in a chamber at the end of the burrow.
However, suitable nesting sites are becoming increasingly difficult to find. Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust is trying to help our local population as part of its Wetland Restoration project.
Material excavated as part of the construction of new ponds on the site has been piled up to create an artificial bank graded on its southern side to provide a vertical face. Pipes will soon be inserted in preparation for the return of the sand martins in 2020, when we hope to bring you more positive news. www.downtothecoast.co.uk