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Sand martin nesting box ready for new residents

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Posted: Monday 4th January 2016 by collegelake

Sand martin nest box at College LakeSand martin nest box at College Lake by Diccon Proctor

Great progress has been made at College Lake over the last six weeks, and the nesting box is now installed on the bund between the lakes, just waiting for the first sand martins to call in and make it their summer residence.

Heritage Lottery Fund Logo

Written by Diccon Proctor

Developing Green Talent Trainee, College Lake

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

During the autumn a lot of work has been done to prepare the site at our College Lake nature reserve in Bucks for the nesting box. Our volunteer teams have put in a tremendous amount of effort despite some very blustery weather.

Two other DGT Trainees, Duncan and John joined me to use our chainsaw training to clear some small encroaching trees from the bund. This will not only provide a clear flight path for the sand martins, but it will also increase the available nesting habitat for our important wader birds such as the lapwings and redshanks. The Tuesday and Friday volunteer work parties had a lot of fun cutting up and clearing away the felled material. As a reward everyone enjoyed a tasty bacon butty by the bonfire.

We try to re-use as much timber as possible – the straighter branches make good stakes and binders for hedgelaying and the logs are stacked into piles to provide food and shelter for those insects and fungi that thrive on decaying wood.

Once the site was cleared, six metre-deep holes were dug to hold the upright posts on top of which a timber platform was built; this is set 1.8 metres off the ground. Old metal shelves were recycled, cut into anti-predator skirts and fitted to the posts to deter land predators, such as foxes, from reaching the nests.

Meanwhile David Croucher, our inventive builder volunteer, painstakingly constructed the nest box. This is a treated plywood exterior shell housing 36 PVC pipes, each of them part-filled with sand to mimic the nesting preference of the martins.

Another front panel hides the pipes and this has rows of offset entrance holes, each one big enough for the sand martins but too small for predatory birds such as gulls. The outer front panel is now covered with sand to make it more realistic and appealing to the sand martins.

One of our biggest dilemmas was how to take the box out of the workshop and raise it onto the platform, which was already fixed in place on the bund.

David’s fantastic solution was to build a small scaffold platform to lift the box in a series of stages; firstly from the back of a 4WD vehicle onto the scaffold and then onto the box platform. Chris, Anthony and Paul, three of our Bucks Reserves Conservation Trainees, lent their strength to help us with this final task.

We’ve just going to make a few finishing touches and then the sand martin nesting box will be ready for the spring migration.  

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