House Martins have returned over the last couple of days with at least two pairs holding disused nests on our house. I am baffled as to why they are showing such interest in the nests this late. Two pairs returned in late spring but both failed to raise young and had deserted by early July. With the adult birds are many juveniles so we are currently treated to between 20- 30 martins wheeling around the eaves in the morning. Whilst it is highly unlikely that either pair will attempt to breed this late, it is certainly wonderful to have martins around again and perhaps this late prospecting bodes well for us next year.
Recent warmth has enabled the Swifts to feed on the abundance of flying insects, which gives them plenty of energy. Their flying in such conditions is spectacular, with screaming flocks passing the eaves at high speed throughout the daylight hours, literally starting at 4.30am and finishing at 10pm. Most of these screaming Swifts are non breeding birds who are looking for nest sites and in some cases joining existing colonies. We don’t know why they scream in tight flocks, it could be a social activity which bonds the colony or perhaps some form of courtship, we can only guess.
Recently these non breeders have been turning their attention towards the martin nests, hurling themselves at the mud structures to look in the entrances. The martins stay in their nests and defend them. Sometimes they even chase the Swifts in the air. It is unlikely that the Swifts would use the martin nests though this has occasionally been recorded. The martins added additional mud to their nest entrances and made the nests even stronger. Three out of the four pairs on the front of our house did this at the same time as a response to the increase in Swift activity. The slightly heavier Swifts were knocking small amounts of mud from the structures, mainly through the speed at which they landed.
We now have another pair of Swifts in residence. They have taken to a Swift nest box and visit frequently. They will probably build a nest during the rest of their stay and return to breed next May.
Two pairs of House Martins have started nest building on the house. After several days of singing and chattering loudly from dawn every morning they have made their decision and are adding mud pellets. First they build a substantial shelf about five inches from the soffit board. This will support the side walls as they progress. Once they have built a substantial foundation they will start roosting on it. I love the sound of martins and their graceful flight as they approach the eaves. They are collecting mud from a puddle about 100metres from the house but have been delayed over the last two days by the strength of the wind. At least the rain will have topped up their mud supply.
We had some brief visits by a pair of martins yesterday. They clung on the wall at the site of one of last year’s nests which fell down in the winter on a night when the temperature dropped to -15 celsius. At the time the nest was full of roosting Wrens. They may well build another nest here but I have provided six artificial martin nest boxes to compensate especially as mud is very hard to find in this exceptionally dry spring. These martins arrived just two days earlier than the first last year.