House martin diary 2024

After a dismal start to the season, where one nest was taken immediately and early.....the one that's been most successful over the last 12 years.....and then 'lost' idea why other than sparrows were causing a nuisance.....cold weather then arrived after that......but numbers of martins picked up a bit.

To cut a long story short, there are currently six active nests. One has young a week old and the others appear to be incubating, two of which must be very close to hatching.

There continues to be sparrow involvement, but so far, he, and it is largely just one sparrow, seems more tolerant, or at least less needlessly aggressive than others in previous years. He is clinging onto a swift box, but has failed to attract a mate. There appear fewer female sparrows here this year, and certainly fewer sparrows in young sparrows so far, and usually by mid June there's a garden full from first broods.

The nest on the left is of the one with young in. The adult entered, did a spring clean, and looked out before departing....the right hand nest with a woodpecker hole in is the sixth of 6 nests. Any eggs will have been laid no more than a week ago. It is directly next to the swift box (edge of it just in view) with the male far, only limited conflict. Infact, the swifts are keeping the sparrow in the tree quite a lot today. I think he is feeling a bit out numbered and intimidated.

  • Definitely fledged from downpipe nest. Watched two jostling at the entrance before one got out. The other is still there....nest on the right still incubating IMO.

    Concrete nest is now definitely feeding. Could hear young last night.

    Patio still feeding. Youngster looking out.

    Predators still massing.....

  • Mud nest appears to still be incubating. Must be close to hatching now. Side entrance design. Had a sparrow in and out before this year's mud was added to last year's incomplete build. A sparrow did enter the adjacent nest and was a nuisance during the construction phase....but all seems quieter now.

  • Quick update. Patio nest appears to have failed. As can be seen from the photo a few days ago, the young weren't due to fledge. Unclear what caused the problem as there was an adult feeding on Saturday. As garage nest proved, they can go 2 days without food. Whether it was the cold night since then, or adults struggling to find enough food, or an intrusion by a sparrow or GSW, hard to it's only 9th July, if there aren't bodies in the nest, I'd expect it to be used again by the adults....if so, that'd rule out starved or chilled young. Time will tell. 

    Downpipe nest fledged. Hard to tell but definitely at least three. Regularly coming back into the nest, partly due to wet weather I suspect, though some come back regardless of weather. Concrete nest is still feeding. Mud nest I think may have recently hatched. Other downpipe nest should have hatched about now too. Will get a final update from rescue centre re garage nest in a week or so.

  • good to hear the downpipes nest fledged with at least three young;   sad to hear the patio nest may have failed but hope there were no chicks in it and it can be used again.  Thanks for update Rob.    I've seen quite a few house martins on our residential parkland flying over the mere snatching insects so was really heart-warming to see all the activity.   What special little birds they are with the distances they travel.     


    Regards, Hazel 

  • Fingers crossed for better weather and some more fledglings!

    (Pardon the Scottish Accent)

  • Concrete nest still feeding. A really (even worse!) poor photo seems to confirm four young. At least one showing in this photo. That nest has the lowest capacity, so may not handle four successfully. Will probably never know.

    Of the other nests, Patio nest is IMO clearly showing signs of dead bodies. A few approaches by curious youngster.....but they veer off when they get close. Leads me to Mud nest. Still used by two adults. Should have hatched by now. Showing signs of unconventional behaviour and a male sparrow has twice flown up to it, and entered the unoccupied artificial nest immediately next to it. It's pretty clear the adult martins are holding back in the nest to make sure it's not invaded. I am increasingly suspecting a sparrow got into Patio nest. After a few days of quiet (rain presumably), the male sparrow was back with a vengeance yesterday incl perching on the guttering over that end of the roof. Sulking over losing 'sparrow box' to the swifts again???

    The other Downpipe nest has had birds entering and leaving too. Still not clear what's going on with that one. Should have hatched by now I'd have thought.

    'Sparrow cup' is now up and running. It's located in the middle of the back of the house. Nearest nest is Concrete nest. It was the sparrow's preferred nest cup in previous years and was filled with nesting rubbish at the start of the year and again, had occasional visits by a sparrow since.

    Terrible photo of it. I am fairly sure birds entering it were youngsters, probably from Downpipe nest.

    I am hoping with it being mid July now, the sparrow interference will almost be over. I don't think we've had sparrows starting a breeding attempt this late in a year......just need for the sparrow to work out for himself that time is up.  

  • Appreciating the updates, particularly with the natural nests vs the manmade nests.

  • Thanks Mike. The 'sparrow cup' had the male house sparrow back in it yesterday afternoon. While it is still 'mucking about', there is a risk to the active nests IMO.

  • As Mike says, your posts are very much appreciated Rob as it not only updates us on the active (or failed) nests but it helps give a fuller understanding of the struggle that some of the hirundines have throughout nesting season and the characteristics/behaviour of both "intruders" and also the nesting birds and their hatchlings.    By regular observations we can learn so much about birds giving us a clearer understanding, especially during nesting season.    Also shows how persistent and determined sparrows (or other predators) are to either try destroy nests or evict martins (despite sometimes not wanting the nests to use themselves) or on the flip side of the coin martins, on seeing a threat,  staying close to protect their nestlings.    Along with the words "build it and they will come" we should have a saying "observe it and we will learn".  !!!      


    Regards, Hazel 

  • Thanks. Will get final update re garage nest next week. Downpipe young (I'm assuming it's them) keep playing around the back of the house and checking out spare nests. Other downpipe nest should have hatched by now. Not clear it has though so may have failed. Adults still entering it though. Mud nest and concrete nest are both still feeding and both appear to have all adults involved. Patio nest clearly has corpses in it. Still getting brief interest, but as soon as a bird gets close, it dashes away. BTO would close that off in any survey as, 'failed, unknown cause'. Technically correct. I know they didn't starve though, and also know other young were in other nests so getting too cold is poss but not overly maybe. Doesn't leave much else as a cause.