House Martin Diary - 2006
24 May - Now that the great Tits have left us, it's time to turn my attentions elsewhere, and in a moment of optimism I have decided to give the House Martins their own diary this year. The frequency of diary entries will vary according to the amount of activity seen, and there will be interruptions as their nesting times do tend to overlap with our visits to Cornwall!
I will complete this introduction properly in the days to come, but in the meantime, here are a few details to get started -
Our road has always had just a couple of House Martins nesting each summer, so around twelve years or so ago I decided to try attracting some by putting up a trio of artificial nests which I made using a cement/ peat mixture on a fibreglass skeleton.
Until 2004 the nests remained unused by Martins, although occasionally used as roosts by House Sparrows. Then, in August 2004 we were surprised when a pair of Martins used one of the nests to raise successfully a late (probably a second) brood. They returned last year and we saw both early and late broods.
This year we saw the first House Martins of the year, along with Swifts, high above us on 3 May. By the next day a pair of Martins had moved into the right hand nestbox. Since then they have built up the entrance, somewhat untidily, and while I cannot see into that nest, the fact that there has been just occasional movement in and out each day suggests that they have eggs at this time.
Over the last two mornings there have also been multiple visits to the left-hand nest, which is equipped with a camera this year, having been used for nesting in both 2004 and 2005, and this morning there were more visits to the camera nest than I have seen on any previous day.
It was those visits that made me decide to get this diary started and organise a new webcam, although I may well need to keep my fingers crossed until August if we have to wait for a second brood!
Until the camera-equipped nest is actually being used, I am setting up the webcam to show the arrangement shown below. If eggs are laid I will switch coverage to concentrate on the internal view.
The top-right image, captured at 3.25pm, shows one of the Martins leaving the right-hand nest. In that same image it is the nest nearest the camera that also has a camera looking down into it from our loft space.
The bottom-right image shows the view from that camera.
For the moment. I am also including the Robin nest box. Although it was visited by both Robin(s) and Great Tits it has remained unused, although it is still possible that the Robins could still have a second brood during June.
I have to emphasise that there is no artificial lighting in the Martin nest so that there will only be an image during daylight hours, and the quality of that is liable to vary greatly according to cloud cover/weather conditions. Also, even though they are situated under a overhanging section of roof, as the boxes face east the interiors can be brightly lit in the mornings. The camera/lens combination is not able to adjust for extremes of lighting so, although I may make adjustments when I am available, there will be times when image quality will become poor.
The lens will have problems with the adults because it has been set up to focus on any eggs or chicks that may appear, presumably at the lowest part of the nest.
The bottom image shows what happens to the image when the adult spends time looking out!
These visits took place between 9 and 11am this morning.
At the moment the furthest nest is so small in the webcam that it is very difficult to see when there is a bird at the entrance. Tomorrow, if there are no visits to the nearest box in the morning I may redirect the external camera to concentrate on the right hand nest where there is occasional activity throughout the day.
26 May - I had hoped to leave my laptop running the webcam during the break we are about to embark on, but a technical problem means that I have to suspend it until I can deal with a problem the laptop has developed. Hopefully I can sort out the problem quickly on our return.
Click on the images to see larger versions -