Thanks to funding from The Caterpillar Foundation there are now two artificial Sand Martin banks at Rutland Water Nature Reserve and a generous donation from the Rutland Natural History Society has enabled the installation of a special live camera on one of the banks to provide wonderful close-up views of breeding Sand Martins, viewable on a big screen within the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre.
Sand Martins are the smallest European hirundines (martins and swallows). Agile fliers, they can be seen whizzing around catching insects over Rutland Water throughout the summer breeding season before returning to their African wintering grounds.
There are more than 200 Sand Martin pairs nesting in our two artificial banks already this year and, with a bit of luck, that figure should continue to increase through the season. The design of the bank allows Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers to access each nest in order to ring the chicks before they fledge. Last year almost 1000 chicks were ringed in the artificial bank beside lagoon 2 alone. These ringed birds have subsequently been recorded again on the south coast of England, France, Spain, Portugal and even Africa.
Two weeks ago Jason Alexander installed a tiny HD camera in the lagoon 2 bank, providing a unique view inside a Sand Martin nest for the first time. It has been fascinating to watch the development of a brood of five chicks. Here are two videos showing just how remarkably quickly they have grown in the past two weeks.
We also captured some incredible footage of an intruding bird being evicted from one of the nests. The adult bird appeared to be unwell and was tolerated in the nest for a few hours. Eventually though it was dragged out of the nest by one of the breeding birds. As a colonially-nesting species, this behavior must happen from time-to-time, but it’s brilliant to have been able to record it on camera for the first time.
We are very grateful to the Caterpillar Foundation and Rutland Natural History Society for the funding, and also to Jason Alexander for installing the camera. You can check out Jason’s Wildlife Gadgetman website here.