Saturday 11 June 2016

Sand Martins - Visit One 11/06/2016

This morning I had planned an early start to visit both Sand Martin colonies but there was continuous drizzle from 7am, so I didn't head out until after 10.  This, plus the fact I was on my own, I opted to visit the main colony at Macfin alone.  The conditions were ideal for ringing with it being mild, calm and very dull with the low cloud. 
My first impression was that the colony seemed quite quiet but it soon livened up once the 12 metre net went up.  In previous years I would use a 6m extension net but a part of the sand bank face has collapsed and no longer houses any burrows.  The numbers are probably similar to previous years with something around 150 pairs.

Sand Martin

The shape of the curved bank is quite awkward to get a net in and means the net sits below and roughly 3 metres away from the face in places.  It isn't all bad as it allows the birds to access the burrows while the net is up but it does result in many birds flying over the net.  A total of 65 birds were caught today with 46 being new birds and one of those was the first juvenile of the year.  Of the 19 retraps, 13 were from 2015 and 6 from 2014.  All but two of the birds were caught on the inside of the net as they depart their burrows.  As I was on my own I didn't have time to fully process the birds so they were simply aged, sexed, ringed and released. 

I had been very disappointed to only catch 8 retraps last year, following 144 new birds caught in the first year at the site.  Today was much more pleasing as I recaptured 19 birds from previous years and being only the first visit, we may yet reach sufficient numbers to start a RAS.  Next year may be an ideal time to begin with potentially 272 birds bearing rings before this year, and todays totals taking the total to 318. 

I unfortunately don't have time to visit the Sand Martin colony at Grangemore but I will visit it at the start of July when I return from Croatia - when I will also do visit two to Macfin.
The blog will be quiet over the next 3 weeks but the others should hopefully be busy ringing.  I'll be back and at it in July with an update and hopefully news of more terns, gulls and the first Storm Petrels of the season. 

First juvenile of the year

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