Sand Martin Brockholes Nature Reserev

The Return of the Sand Martin

19 Mar 2018

Helen Earnshaw is one of our Conservation Interns on the reserve, she tells us about an exciting new arrival…

A sure sign that spring is just around the corner is when you spot your first Sand Martin… and they have started to return to Brockholes Nature Reserve this week.

The Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) is a regular visitor to the UK and Brockholes from March through to October, before they return to Africa to winter. They usually start appearing on UK shores from mid to late March, the earliest return of this bird to Brockholes came in 2008, when five were recorded on the 9th March.

Sand Martins feeding by Dennis Ryan 

This year, the first reported sighting came on the 12th March when one was spotted feeding over Number One Pit.  A second sighting of a Sand Martin feeding over Number One Pit, seen from the Lookout, was reported just two days later.

Sand Martins by Bill Gregory 

Our smallest European hirundine (the family that includes martins and swallows), the Sand Martin has a brown back and wings, white underparts, a narrow brown band across the breast and a short forked tail. Not to be confused with the Swallow, which as a glossy blue back, red throat and a deeply forked tail. Or a Swift, which is plain brown, pale throat, and scythe shaped wings.

The Sand Martin is an elegant bird in flight and it won’t be long until you will be able to spot them dancing over the water at Meadow Lake and catching insects on the wing.

Keep your eyes peeled at our Sand Martin boxes, seen from the Visitor Village and from the Lookout Hide. The birds can also be spotted nesting in colonies along the bank of the River Ribble.

It is always an exciting time when the spring and summer visitors start returning and it looks like there’s going to be plenty to look out for when you are out and about on the reserve in the coming weeks.

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