Brian Calahan and his house martins in Crumlin Northern Ireland

When I began building my house at Crumlin in early May 1999, I noticed a huge flock of house martins availing of a large patch of mud which lay exposed for quite a long time at the lower corner of my site.

I had been busy integrating sixteen swift boxes into the soffit of the new build, but when I observed this, I straight away ordered, I think it was 6 Schwegler house martin cups. These were hastily erected on the north facing side of the house. I had removed the backing boards and painted the outside of the cups with mud and lined the inside with a few feathers. I then screwed the cups to the soffit.

The roof was still to be slated and the roofers had just commenced. Imagine my surprise when early the next morning two nests were occupied and the roofers went about their daily work hammering and drilling etc. The martins took not the slightest notice of them and reared their broods successfully. I had played no calls, but each year I added more and more cups to all four sides of the house and more and more martins came .

I now have 17 pairs, some of which build their own nests. When the house was finished in the millennium year, swifts began to take up residence and I now have thirty nine pairs on the house along with 12 pairs in my swift tower which I have in the garden .

Both species are perfectly happy with each other and there has never been any conflict.

It would be futile of me to try and articulate all the sense of wonderment and joy which accompanies the house martins arrival on or near the 6th of April, suffice to say they, and the swifts’ stay make each season immeasurably unforgettable for me.


Written by Brian Calahan

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