Sunday, 18 May 2014

Can we really no longer share our homes with the birds?

House martins - such delightful birds
A local birder that I know, checks out the numbers of House Martins nesting in the small Hampshire town of Ringwood each year, concentrating on the area around the market square and high street, and last year he reckoned there were around 200 nests tucked away under various eaves. This year however he was dismayed to find that most of the nests below a certain height (Ladder height) had gone, leaving behind only the very highest nests and as a result the numbers of House martins flying around seemed to have dropped substantially.

Obviously nesting birds directly situated above a shop entrance is not ideal as quite a lot of guano collects in a mound below the nest, but to go around knocking the whole lot down seems a real shame.

On the other side of the coin, I have a friend who lives in Suffolk who always runs the hose on some soil during hot weather so that "his" House martins have an ideal source of damp mud for building nests under the eaves of his house!
I remember a few years ago giving a vicar – who will remain nameless – a short sharp lecture on why it was so wonderful to have Swallows nesting in the porch of the church and that netting the roof space to stop them doing so was hardly in the spirit of his religion, I reckoned!

Has our environment really become so sterilised that we can’t live with a little bird poo, in order to have skies filled with darting Swallows and Martins?

I have taken this advice is taken from the RSPB’s website:

With house martins amber listed due to their population decline, it is inappropriate to prevent them nesting. While most people welcome house martins, the birds can occasionally be a problem, for instance if a nest is above a door. These conflict areas can be isolated by closing in the triangle under the eaves where the nests are built with a piece of wood, fine mesh chicken wire or parallel wires stretching from the outer edge of the soffit board to c.15cm down the wall. 

Do not deny martins access to parts of the roof where their presence does not create a problem. Never put these deterrents in position to prevent access to an active nest and only remove existing nests, if essential, during the winter months when the martins are not in residence.
Knocking down an active nest or preventing birds access to their eggs or young is illegal and attracts potentially high penalties.

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