Artificial nesting bank brings nesting sand martins back North-East of England

Nature officials are optimistic about a newly created artificial nesting bank for sand martins in the north-east of England, which is already showing promising early results.

Constructed at the Washington Wetland Centre in Tyne and Wear last October to welcome the birds upon their spring return, the facility can accommodate 100 nesting pairs. Observations of the birds exploring the bank's entrances have been reported by John Gowland, the reserve manager.

There is hope that this development will mark the first time sand martins, encompassing species like swallows and house martins, breed at the site in its 49-year history. Typically seen hunting and feeding over the site's Wader Lake in the spring, the sand martins had previously failed to establish natural nesting sites along the River Wear's nearby banks.

The newly built artificial nesting bank, comprising cavity blocks with entry holes, alongside a tunnel and nesting chamber, aims to remedy this.

Gowland expressed optimism about the bank's potential impact, stating, "Sand martins are among the first spring migrants we see each breeding season on our reserve. The early sightings are promising, and we are hopeful for the success of the species with this new nesting option. We've made sure to provide everything they need for successful nesting."

Previous efforts to encourage natural nesting involved modifying a lake bank section into a vertical face. However, the compact mix of clay and rubble stone in the soil proved too difficult for the birds to penetrate, Gowland noted.