A house martin nest PICTURE: Nuala Madigan
It has been a busy year for nesting birds in the wildlife gardens of the Bog of Allen Nature Centre.
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Blackbirds, robins and great tits have all had chicks fledge and even a family of young blue tits fledged from a bird box that IPCC were using as a donation box. Lesson learned — don’t use a bird box as a donation box!
Swifts also took up residence in the attic of the centre and all summer we have been monitoring two pairs of house martin (gabhlán binne as Gaeilge) who had built their nests from mud under an archway at the centre.
It is illegal to disturb and take photographs of nesting birds, so this week’s image is that of an empty house martin’s nest taken once the young chicks had successfully fledged. These birds are migratory and soon will be beginning their journey to their winter retreat in Africa.
The house martin is often confused with the swallow as they both nest under eaves and both have forked tails.
The main distinguishing feature to watch for is that the house martin has a distinct white rump, which you will get a flash of when in flight. When looking at the size of the nest, it is hard to believe that a pair of house martins can lay up to five white eggs, which the female will then incubate for up to 16 days.
Once the young chicks hatch, the adults will feed the young until they fledge anything up to 30 days later. Once the young fledge, the adults will continue to help to feed them for another week before they attempt a second brood later in the season. The feeding of this second brood is less intense for the adults, as their earlier fledglings support them and learn from their parents.
Over the next couple of weeks it will be your last opportunity to see the house martin in your area until next year – can you find it? If you would like help identifying a wildlife species contact me at the Bog of Allen Nature Centre on 045 860133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to suggest a species to focus on for ‘Wildlife Watch’ contact the Bog of Allen Nature Centre on 045 860133 or email email@example.com