Building a Colony In Oxfordshire

Approximately seven years ago we had the privilege of having a pair of house martins construct a nest under the eaves at the rear of our house. They nested here for a couple of years and although we did have other pairs start to build nothing much came of this.

Unfortunately, during the winter of the second year the nest fell to the ground so we decided that we would put up a couple of double nest boxes in approximately the same spot. Low and behold the next year we had the martins back and they readily used the artificial box and the others were also filled.

Over the next couple of years, we put up two more double boxes and last year had a bumper year for babies and all eight boxes were used twice. This year we put up another six nest sites, some at the back and some at the front of the house. Five of these have been used, so in total have thirteen active boxes – at the time of writing they are all on their second broods.

We would definitely recommend helping these little birds out with the artificial nest boxes. Quite a few of the pairs add little bits of mud to the entrance holes to modify them to their liking. It’s such a struggle for them to travel such a long distance and then find nests have been lost or destroyed, and with our drier springs, finding the mud to build with is not easy, so this is the perfect answer

We have seen a good increase in house martins over the last couple of years and it’s so rewarding to think we had a small part in this. This year especially we have had so many house martins flying around the house it’s impossible to count them

It is worth mentioning that you do need to ensure you get a good quality nest box. Some of the cups are very shallow and so they do not like them. You need to look for a box such as the ones sold by C J Wildlife or the NHBS

We have also had success for the first time this year with a swift nest site. We installed swift bricks a couple of years ago and had a pair successfully rear a brood – I was lucky enough to see the chick fledge.

Written by Amanda Miller

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