Washington Wetland Centre visitors to partake in sand martin survey as hopes grow for first nesting pair

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Staff hope the artificial bank will result in the centre’s first breeding sand martins

Visitors to Washington Wetland Centre are being asked to take part in a survey to help monitor the centre’s sand martin population and the success of an artificial nesting site.

In October 2023 the centre completed construction of an artificial sand bank in the hope of attracting nesting pairs of sand martins which migrate back to our shores each spring and summer having wintered in parts of Africa.

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One of the sand martins observed at Washington Wetland Centre.One of the sand martins observed at Washington Wetland Centre.
One of the sand martins observed at Washington Wetland Centre. | WWT Washington

The birds have previously been seen trying to dig nesting chambers into the lakeside bank, however, due to the consistency of the soil they have had no known success in the centre’s 49 year history.

The new bank has nesting chambers for up to 105 pairs of the birds and early signs have been promising with sand martins observed perched on the rim of the chambers and some of the birds even venturing inside with nesting materials.

Staff at the Washington site are now asking people visiting the centre’s Vic Robins hide, located on Wader Lake, to record the number of sand martin birds and potential pairs they see.

The artificial bank with sand martins going in and out of the nesting chambers.The artificial bank with sand martins going in and out of the nesting chambers.
The artificial bank with sand martins going in and out of the nesting chambers. | WWT Washington.

WWT Washington’s reserve manager, John Gowland said: “By helping us to gather this data, people taking part in the citizen survey are a part of the global community, working to protect wetlands and the species that rely upon them.”

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The sand martin bank is part of on-going habitat management around Wader Lake, which over the last three years has already benefitted from desilting work, deepened water channels and more effective vegetation management. As well as improving wildlife habitat, the developments are designed to “enhance visitors’ wildlife experience”.

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