Wookey Hole’s Wonderful Wildlife
Our House Martins are back!
Last year was a successful breeding year with several nests under the eaves in Milton Lane and Coombe Brook. Each year, till they arrive and start collecting beaks full of mud for their nests I am always a bit concerned. They migrate to us from their wintering grounds in sub Saharan Africa, fighting against sand storms and battling into headwinds that some years it is a miracle they make it at all.
In a good year they can raise three broods of young and the first ones help mum and dad feed the next brood of offspring. The last brood can still be here in late September or even into October, but by then the parents must be in a panic to leave before the winds change and the last of the insects are eaten.
House Martins can be identified by the white rump.
Adult Swallows have dark steely blue backs with tail streamers. The prefer to nest in barns, stables and around farmhouses
Sand Martins are smaller and generally dull brown. They don’t breed locally but are often seen passing through. One of the best places in the west country I know are the sandstone cliffs and river banks of Devon - Dawlish Warren is particularly good. They dig out a small tunnel into a sandy bank with nothing more than their tiny beak, often dozens of pairs nesting side by side.
The last to arrive are the Swifts. You know when they arrive by the screams as the chase each other across the sky. ( a country name for them is the Devil Bird!) So fast and acrobatic they are the most ‘air dependant’ of birds - their legs are stunted and almost useless on land. When the young leave us, as early as July, they will live in the air feeding sleeping and mating on the wing.
This is the time when many newly fledged birds are just leaving their nest. It is when they are at their most vulnerable. It is always a temptation to pick up a young bird and take it home ‘for protection’. In most cases it is much better, to leave it where you find it as long as it is fully fledged and not injured, – certainly put it in a bush or off the ground away from cats and other predators. It is almost certain that its parents are close by waiting for you to leave so they can feed junior.
As always if you have any wildlife sighting I would love to hear from you.