Conservationists realized that they needed more than a bucket and shovel to build a 400-ton sandcastle large enough to be an attractive home for sand martins to roost in England.
To help the little birds, they needed big machines, and building a sandbar big enough for them to build their nests required the help of a sand-sculpting company.
The sand martin The smallest English members of both the martin and the swallow families: the birds were finding fewer and fewer perfect places to drill their nests as so much development had replaced their previous nesting habitats with infrastructure.
Martins return annually from wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa. Digging into the side of the high banks means sand martins are picky housewives, but the Surrey Wildlife Trust, acting as a real estate developer, is building a huge man-made sandbar for them in the Spynes Mere Nature Reserve.
With the help of a specialized construction and landscaping company called ‘Sand in Your Eye’, it took weeks to fill a mold, get the water content correct, and pack the sand before they could remove the wooden supports.
James Herd, project manager for the Surrey Wildlife Trust, said in a video about the project: “The number of sand martins has plummeted twice in the last 50 years as a result of droughts in their wintering grounds in Africa. At the bank here we are giving them a long-term sustainable home to nest in the future. “
“The design is similar to building a sand castle on the beach, but instead of buckets and shovels we used nine-ton excavators and dump trucks,” he added.
The small passerines, which arrive in England in mid-March and depart in September, use their claws to dig nesting holes up to a meter deep in the shore. At the end of the tunnel, a small chamber is created where between four and eight eggs are deposited in a nest of feathers and vegetation.
Over time, the Trust will remove layers of sand from the surface of the bank to remove parasites from the nest.
Returning king martins will dig new nests, and every six years or so the bank will be restored to its original size, ensuring that your home remains intact for years to come.
(WATCH Surrey Wildlife Trust video on this initiative below).
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