House Martins

  • Thanks the double cheep I heard was a female. I am glad he received a response and very glad they have both now gone away Ha Ha........hopefully to breed.
  • If I'm lucky I usually get a pair feeding in garden in hotter weather, great chance to see the female who is very pretty albeit so light coloured!


     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr

  • Thanks Robbo
    I will definitely take your advice after reading your reply. I will put up threads on the end nest which is unoccupied and if I see any sign of conflict will put them along the whole row. I do not want to disturb the two pairs of house martins which have settled in two of the other nests.

    I hope I have an advantage that "my" nests are only about 3m high. My presence does not bother the HM and never has. They pop their heads out of the nests when I whistle them and chatter away. They happily fly in and out of their nests a metre or so above my head. (Yes I have been caught out and had to wash my hair on occasion!) The sparrows however, are very wary when I am about and will only enter the nest box when I sit on the patio several metres away and sit very, very still. My partner reminded me that a couple of years ago a pair of sparrows were successfully attacked by the HM's and driven from the end nest.

    However, I will not take any chances and will put up threads asap. Thank you Robbo for writing such a detailed response. I agree we ought to fight for the housemartins.
  • I would definitely read a new thread about your housemartins! I may even respond with updates about my birds if that is OK with you. We have very few housemartins in the area (only seen my 3 pairs this year), one pair of swallows down in the hamlet and no swifts.Very sad and disappointing.
    I was watching the HM's yesterday and noticed a female sparrow land on the sparrow terrace roof several times, hop about a bit then fly away. I assumed I was putting her off but then definitely saw a great tit fly out of the front hole. Great tits were nesting but always using the right hand entrance. Anyway, the female sparrow then went in the central entrance. A bit later, a male sparrow flew onto the roof carrying what looked like a large feather. Female flew out and male flew in. I will try to watch today at some point. I think birds can access all three holes from every compartment but cannot be sure. I know the first year we put it up, a great tit pair had chicks in the right hand compartment and used the middle one as an en-suite toilet.
    Housemartins very busy in all 3 nests. I would think the pair of late-comers have eggs laid or close to it. Pair who arrived April very busy and assume by activity they are incubating eggs. Cannot wait to see the egg shells so I know for certain.
  • Hi there, I found this thread after searching for advice on sparrows bullying house martins.

    I live in a rural village near Stirling which has colony style houses with eaves running the length of the block, which are fantastic for HMs. Its the absolute highlight of the year when they arrive, and the sky is often like a motorway with the number of birds dashing in an out busily building their nests.

    Firstly I have been worried about the returning numbers this year as we have a lot less than normal, which everyone in the village has noticed. My mum monitors numbers over in the central belt and says the same. There are about 7 nests on one side of my block, all of which were occupied by HMs last year. So far only 2 have been occupied by HMs (1 of which sits above my front door) and a couple are occupied by sparrows.

    That's why I'm so annoyed to witness what happened today. The sparrows had taken up residency before our wanderers returned, and are now feeding young. The empty nest above my door had been damaged and I have loved watching the HMs diligently repair this over the last 2 weeks, however to my horror I noticed the sparrows making a racket this afternoon and there appeared to be a scuffle between the birds. It looks like the sparrows have managed to fight the HMs off the nest, after they obligingly repaired it, and are now sitting guarding this nosily like a mob of hooligans lining up on the guttering and hanging off the side of the nest. There's loads of them and the HMs don't stand a chance!

    I can't understand why some of the nests have been left empty altogether by both species, seems like such a shame when there are plenty of options. I guess the sparrows know what they're doing, and waited for the upgrade!

    I'm not a fan of singling out certain species for protection, we often interfere and get it wrong, but I am so sad that the few HMs which made across the seas have been bullied out their nest by a thriving population of sparrows. The sparrows aren't bothered by me at all, I tried shooing them away but of course that didn't work. I came across the RSPB advice re hanging weighted strings and was looking for some examples of that in practice, so thank you Robbo for the photos in your other thread. I just wondered whether trying to hang strings at this stage might scare both species away? The HMs are quite shy, and I might make things worse for them. Is this something better left until next year, before anyone is trying to nest, and hope the HMs aren't spooked by the new obstacles in front of their nests?

    Thanks, Mari
  • Yes thanks Robbo, your posts were very helpful. The RSPB seemed to have very little info or case studies other than that one article so it was good to see a working example.

    It certainly looked like all of the nests fledged young last year. I can say more accurately that the nests near my part of the block definitely did, but the ones further along sit above other people's houses so I watched them from afar. However I sat on the steps many an evening watching what seemed like hundreds of HMs flying in an out as they were fledging, so it was certainly a very successful year. The sparrows have erupted this year though, they were a pleasant bird to have around last year and I'm finding them a bit noisy and annoying in numbers this year!

    How did you attach the string to the gutter, did you have somewhere to tie it on?

    I wonder if Firecrest has given this a go yet.
  • No I haven't Mari as I haven't many house sparrows in my garden, only seen1 pair this year. I do see tree sparrows coming to feed but they have never nested in my garden or the boxes. I have not seen any aggression between sparrows and HM this year although I realise that does not mean it has not happened. I really do enjoy the sparrows and was very pleased to see them return as there were none to be seen anywhere for the first 10 years or so I lived here. I am grateful to Robbo for his advice as it is good to be aware.

    I do agree with you about trying to interfere too much with different species. (Yes, people will argue I am interfering by feeding birds...fair enough). Every time so called experts have interfered in the past, we see more problems. I am afraid I am disgusted with my local wildlife group who go about shooting every grey squirrel they see. (They refer to it as "dispatching" rather than killing and make the same excuses and give the same reasons as every hunting & shooting group around) I have absolutely nothing to do with them.

    Yes, I will do everything I can to help house martins but I would never deliberately hurt any other bird to do so.
  • Harming one species to save another does seem hypocritical to me and the weird thing is we only value what is scarce... so once we harm one species to the point of decline we then put everything into saving it, which normally means harming another (ravens vs waders). Conservation is a complex and controversial subject!

    Back to the house martins, the strangest thing is now the sparrows have harassed them off the nest they don't appear to be using it. I'm baffled, but nature has it's ways! I could be wrong, perhaps there's a female sparrow incubating in there already but I haven't seen any activity. I would hate to interrupt a bird mid-way through her clutch so won't interfere just now. They are lovely birds to have around too, and who am I to decide anyway! I'll give it some consideration for next year, how best to help the HMs. The idea is to help struggling species, not necessary hinder thriving ones..

    Really appreciate both of your thoughts and advice- thanks.
  • Have you got any HM's breeding at all this year Robbo? I must say numbers all over my area seem to be much lower this year.

    The poor Swallows seem to have disappeared, although hardly surprising when so many in the hamlet have destroyed nests or prevented nesting. I woud love swallows but the box design we put up on the field side of the garage hasn't attracted any.

    Do either of you (Mari and Robbo) get swallows nesting?.