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College Lake Sand Martin Project is underway!

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Posted: Friday 30th October 2015 by collegelake

College LakeCollege Lake

There’s some exciting news to report from College Lake – construction work has started on the new sand martin nest box. This project will build an artificial nest box to encourage sand martins to breed at the reserve once more.

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Written by Diccon Proctor

Developing Green Talent Trainee, College Lake

The Developing Green Talent project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

These summer migrants are relatives of the house martins that nest singly under the eaves of our houses, but sand martins prefer to breed in colonies in the sandy soil of sheer faces in coastal dunes, river banks and quarries.

Sand martins are gregarious birds and we know they visit College Lake to feed during their spring and autumn migrations, but they have not bred here for the last ten years. 

Some time ago there was an attempt to establish a colony by drilling nesting holes into a chalk bank, but that wasn’t successful in the long term due to the natural erosion of the bank. The chalk face is now not vertical enough to deter predators such as foxes, and the chalk is too firm for the martins to burrow into.

As a Developing Green Talent trainee one of my tasks is to create and deliver a project from start to finish. I'm building a sand martin nesting box that, I hope, will attract these beautiful birds, and encourage them to stay awhile and breed at College Lake.

Thanks to generous donations from the Bucks Bird Club, the Chilterns Group of BBOWT, and a private individual, we started work last month, using a nest box design that’s been proven on other nature reserves. 

The sand martin nest box is a wooden structure with 36 plastic pipes inside, each partially filled with sand to recreate nest holes which are similar to those favoured by these birds.

We plan to install this in the sheltered, left-hand side of the bund that divides the two lakes. To make sure that foxes and other land predators cannot disturb the birds, the nestbox will be positioned on a raised platform.

Of course it’s important that our human visitors to College Lake will have good views of the nest box and be able to see the sand martins as they fly in and out, so we will remove a few small trees that currently obscure the site from College Lake’s bird hides.

If you’re planning to visit College Lake in the next few weeks, look out for updates about the project, posted on the noticeboard near the café!

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