I am very pleased to be on the committee of the new group House Martin Conservation UK and Ireland. I have been lucky enough to have house martins on several houses I have lived in, all attracted to artificial nest cups. These give the birds a secure nest to return to each year and thus a head start over others which have to build a new nest. These trusting birds give us immeasurable pleasure from April to September. They linger long after the swifts have departed keeping the sounds of summer alive.
Here is a link to the website:
House Martin colony- 2021 update
We have been extremely fortunate to see our colony grow from one breeding pair(our first) last year to four breeding pairs this year. But this feels bittersweet; so many established colonies have collapsed this year and many households are missing their martins.
We have eight artificial nest cups on our house and this has undoubtedly given our four pairs an advantage. It is a great joy to have them and to know that in this difficult year for the species we are giving four pairs the best possible chance of success. They have shared the eaves with three pairs of swifts without problems and on many occasions it has been easy to see that the two species benefit from the other’s company, especially in signalling the alarm when predators are near.
I played house martin calls each year from 2018. The first two seasons saw no effect despite having house martins nesting within 200m. I had stopped playing them in June last year when a pair suddenly occupied a nest box. Soon after this two other pairs occupied nest cups for most of July until September, but only the one pair nested. The two non-breeding pairs acted very like non-breeding swifts, always roosting at night and visiting and nest building during the day but never actually laying eggs. The fact that the boxes occupied last year by non-breeders have been reoccupied this year suggests that at least one bird in each was a returning bird.
This year our first bird, a male, returned on April 26th, joined by a few more in early May. As I write two pairs are raising second broods and two pairs are raising first broods. We simply do not know the cause of this year’s more general decline and will have to wait until next spring to see if there is a significant recovery in numbers.
Here are some of my sketches from the 2021 season thus far.
Please feel free to download and display or distribute the A5 flier below. Putting this on display in local shops, village halls, notice boards etc. may encourage your community to care for and enjoy house martins when they return.
Sketches of house martins nesting in artificial nest cups on our house in Gilling East, North Yorkshire last summer.