Emma Johnstone, Conservation Intern at Abernethy Barcaple, writes about the work the centre is doing to help house martins flourish at our most northerly Partner in Action, and how the work is inspiring young people to look afresh at nature.
Every spring, house martins are welcome guests at Abernethy Barcaple, happily building their mud nests between the eaves of our mountain bike and kit stores. They are a familiar species here and a favourite amongst the Barcaple team for their amazing adaptability and long migration. Being lucky enough to still see them regularly, we’re sorry to see the decline in house martin populations across the UK. When we heard about A Rocha’s Target 10 initiative, we jumped at the chance of encouraging these great wee birds by providing ready-made nest boxes and ensuring a supply of natural building materials around our site.
We now have a total of 20 individual house martin nest boxes, attached to several of our buildings. Our main house, staff houses, kit stores and barns all feature boxes, to give the birds a good choice of nesting sites and the best views over the Tarff Valley! We’re also keeping up a supply of wet mud (not too difficult in this drizzly part of Scotland!) so they can easily build nests of their own.
Our new wildlife pond is almost complete thanks to the help of a small group of Duke of Edinburgh Environment and Conservation volunteers who started it off at the beginning of this month and we plan on giving parts of our lawn to create areas of bog garden which will be attractive to pollinators and flying insects which are the house martins’ favoured food. We are expecting this year’s arrivals any day now!
House martins are not always loved by home owners and gardeners as they build nests under eaves and cause a mess with their droppings. Because of this, many nests are destroyed. We’re trying to raise awareness of the effect that this has on house martin populations. We hope that we can pass on some of our compassion for God’s creation to the many young people that visit Barcaple as they get to encounter it up close in our outdoor activities and fun conservation sessions.