July, 2011


We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Wildlife Enquiries

'Good morning, Wildlife Enquiries...' We take hundreds of calls and e-mails every day. Find out what everyone's asking this week
  • Five reasons to encourage house martins!

    We have been speaking to a number of people recently about house martins. It has been a case of either love them or hate them with many people not too happy to be sharing their homes with house martins, balanced out by many concerned individuals who have not seen as many this year and are wondering where they are and how to encourage them back. We have been fighting the corner of these plucky little birds as they need all the help they can get, here are five reasons to stick up for house martins!

    1. They are amazing travellers, migrating from Africa to breed here in the UK before making the return journey in the autumn.
    2. House martins feed on flying insects which does the human race a good turn as many of these insects can be a nuisance to us.
    3. Numbers of house martins are declining, they are amber listed because of this and we have concerns about their future.
    4. They are the victims of illegal persecution in the UK with many cases of destruction of active nests being reported to us every year, this is a criminal offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 with penalites of up to £5000 or a six month jail term for each offence.
    5. House martins are dedicated parents and having them nesting is a great opportunity to get an insight into the family lives of a wild bird, also their cheerful chattering is a great background soundtrack to the summer.

    You can encourage house martins to nest by putting up artificial boxes like this one here, and if you already have martins nesting and are having problems with droppings, you can fit a droppings board underneath the nest site. The BTO are conducting a survey of house martin nests so please record any that you come across here.

  • Gulls and gatherings

    Now July is upon us we are getting lots of queries about gulls. At this time of year the parents are being very vocal and protective of their offspring. Most of them will be within a few weeks of taking to the air and will be spending more time moving around and will stray from the nest. Unfortunately for roof nesting gulls this can often result in a fall. Parent gulls will continue to feed them on the ground if they survive the fall so in most cases, its the same old mantra, leave them well alone. If you have cats and dogs its best to keep them away from the young gulls to prevent any accidents occurring. It won't be long until the young gulls figure out how to use their wings properly and take to the skies to join their parents and you then get your gardens back!

    Many species can be seen gathering in large flocks at this time of year, starlings, house sparrows and goldfinches are good examples from recent queries. After a busy spring and summer rearing young in multiple nesting attempts, the young are now able to fly with the parents adn these gregarious flock dwelling species can turn up en masse in gardens. In the wider countryside you may see large gatherings of rooks and jackdaws with their offspring now fully fledged members of the flock. On a smaller scale, woodland birds like tits and warblers can often be seen in roving flocks, moving through the canopy in search of insects like caterpillars and aphids that are numerous at this time of year.

    Its not just birds that are being seen in large numbers, it's flying ant time again! Lots of birds feed on these creatures as they disperse from their underground homes including swifts, starlings and black-headed gulls, watch out for their erratic flight on warm afternoons.