Rural Reading: Where are the sand martins?By Adrian Lawson
March 30, 2012
Normally at this time of year the first of the hirundines arrive; the swallows, house martins and sand martins. The sand martins are normally the first.
At the same time the first warblers turn up, normally the little chiff chaff with its repetitive song, and in some places the scarcer wheatear.
I have been out looking and listening for them. The chiff chaff was easy to find. One day they were everywhere.
The wheatears have proved elusive, but they usually are. But the sand martins have been a surprise, as I haven’t found a single one. Every year I have found a few by now, and a house martin or two as well by now.
After a long flight they head for the gravel pits and can normally be seen feeding on the swarms of little flies that emerge from the water.
However all the effort to find them didn’t go unrewarded. First I found a pair of little ringed plovers by one pool of water.
A few days later I found a real rarity, a cattle egret, on the island at Hosehill nature reserve.
Shortly after that I went back to see it again, and found a garganey, a rare and beautiful duck.
I went back to see if I could see either of them the next chance I had, and maybe a sand martin too.
No sign of them, but four black tailed godwits marched across the shallows by the island, a species I have never seen in Berkshire before. These are long billed and long-legged waders, that feed in the shallows before flying off to their nesting grounds close to the Arctic.
I still hadn’t seen the martins, so went back. To my utter amazement a curlew was sitting on the same island.
In the space of a few days I have seen more rare birds than I would expect to see in a few months.