Sand martins are a small migratory bird that breed in the UK before making an incredible 3000 mile migration to sub-Saharan Africa, despite weighing only 14 g. Each spring sand martins return to nest in colonies along rivers and in quarries where they excavate nesting burrows in soil and sand banks. The ephemeral nature of these nest sites combined with the presence of predators such as stoat, badgers and carrion crows mean that many nests fail to produce young each summer. These problems, however, can be overcome through the installation of artificial nesting banks.
This project involves the construction and subsequent monitoring of an artificial bank with 252 individual nesting chambers at Ketton. The bank will be sited near existing sand martin nests, designed to look as natural as possible, and built with materials sourced in the quarry. Experience from nearby Rutland Water suggests that returning birds will readily take up residence in the artificial bank. This will significantly reduce losses to predation and provide a permanent breeding location; enabling the colony to thrive alongside ongoing quarrying activities. The bank design will facilitate scientific study, including the ringing of adult and juvenile sand martins, and provide opportunities for public engagement through the installation of a HD nest camera. It will provide a model that could be replicated across Hanson/Heidelberg sites.