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I am really worried about my house martins. Why are there so few this year?

Sent in by Myra Bristow, North-east Somerset

We do receive reports about the lack of house martins each year and numbers have been gradually declining since the early 1970s. However, the good news is that we also receive reports of good numbers and successful breeding. 

So, it is always difficult to know whether a lack of these birds, in a few areas, is indicative of a greater decline in their numbers. 

We also know very little about how they fare during our winter when they are in equatorial Africa. Although some martins will be late returning to the UK, all those coming here ought to have arrived by now, and will be nesting and probably feeding young. 

Sadly, early indications are that numbers this year are much reduced. The British Trust for Ornithology has recently launched a survey to try to get a clearer picture of house martins and where they are throughout the British Isles. 

The current distribution map for this species is twenty years old, so it will be very useful to be able to up-date this and try to ascertain whether house martins are continuing to decline or just breeding in different regions. 

Please take part, even if the numbers nesting in your area are stable or increasing. Visit www.bto.org and click on the 2008 House Martin Survey.

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