16 Jul 2014

Sand Martins

I was lucky enough to join Richard, John & Mark this week on one of their evening visits to ring Sand Martins as part of a RAS (retrapping adults for survival) study on the River Lune.

It was a beautiful evening to spend  on the river bank with martins everywhere and the bonus of a fly through Hobby that grabbed one for supper before getting chased away by a screaming mob of agitated martins.

Common Sandpipers, Lapwings, Oystercatchers and Grey Wagtails also frequented the river sides and the surrounding pastures.
There are special guidelines for ringing Sand Martins at colonies and these are strictly adhered to. Two lines of nets were used and opened / closed alternately. I don't get to see these little birds close up very often  as they're usually only caught at colonies or at a roost site - neither of which we have on Hilbre! They are great little birds but pretty smelly after being in their burrows for the breeding season.

Some of the adults were controls from other sites and many females still had brood patches suggesting they were on 2nd or even 3rd broods for the year. Sand Martin ecology is interesting as once the juveniles disperse from their natal colony they visit other colonies and some of last nights retraps were from other colonies on the Lune.

Adults can be identified by their all brown feathering whilst juveniles have buff or rusty fringes to the tertials, coverts and rump.
 Juvenile (3J) Sand Martin with very rusty edges to tertiarys, coverts and rump
 Juvenile (3J) Sand Martin with paler edges to feathers.
Adult Sand Martin - uniform brown feathering although worn at this time of year.

After a couple of weeks fitting bigger rings to cormorants, auks, gulls, terns and Kittiwakes it was nice to get back to handling smaller stuff that doesn't bite or scratch! Sand Martin poo doesn't come out in quite the same quantities as with the seabirds.

Packing up just before 21.00 I was back home by 11.15. A great way to spend a warm summers evening.

No comments :