House Martins are summer visitors to Arran. They undertake incredible journeys from south of the Sahara to reach our shores to breed. Their nests can take up to ten days to build and use over 1,000 beak sized pellets of mud. Many of us marvel at this effort and respect these delightful birds and their nests which are so much a feature of summer on Arran but for how much longer? The House Martin population across the UK is changing. From long term monitoring data held by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), while there was a 69% decrease in House Martin abundance across England between 1967–2012, there was a 125% increase in Scotland between 1994–2013 The attached map shows this change in breeding abundance
between the national atlas of 1988-1991 and the more recent one held twenty years later in 2008-2011. Here on Arran, there have been increases in line with other parts of the north and west of the UK.
Why? We do not know. The changes across the UK may be being influenced by changes in insect abundance, nest site availability, problems in wintering grounds and changes in timing of migration. In an attempt to find out more and to increase our understanding of these changes in the House Martin population, the BTO is organising a House Martin survey over the next two breeding seasons. It is looking for volunteers. It is easy to take part
In 2015, randomly selected 1-km squares across the UK are being surveyed. Each square would be visited two or three times in June and July and straightforward data collected. There are a small number of squares on Arran. In 2016 the study is to focus on individual nests and there will be an opportunity for more people to take part. The BTO is looking for volunteers for both parts of the study. If you would like to find out more or if you would like to take part, visit this website or contact me to get more information.
There is a leaflet available that would be of particular interest to homeowners http://www.bto.org/sites/default/files/u25/BTO_HMS_final_web_version%20%281%29.pdf
Also online there are a wide range of resources available to help volunteers:http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/house-martin-survey/house-martin-survey-2015/resources On this link are instructions, forms, frequently asked questions and guidelines.
Alongside this in an attempt to record every House Martin nesting area on Arran. Please send me all records of House Martin in your buildings or buildings in your area throughout the summer, including location, number of birds, number of nests, number of broods and number of young fledged. I will collate this data and forward it to the BTO on behalf of the Arran Natural History Society.