The familiar calls of House Martins were a welcome sound that greeted us when we stepped outside yesterday morning. We’ve been seeing a few birds over wetland areas this last week or so but yesterday’s were the first that we’ve seen around home.
In our previous winters here, at least a few House Martins have stayed around here through January and by early February they have been a fairly common sight returning to their nests. In fact last year our first around home were on 27th January. This year we’ve gone weeks without seeing any at all and even now their numbers are very few.
With no significant amount of rain falling here for quite some time we would assume that this must be having an impact on the food supply available to House Martins in the form of flying insects. Perhaps their absence is simply because there is insufficient food. It has been estimated that a House Martin may eat up to 3,000 flies each day!
Another result of the very dry winter is that the ground is baked hard and unless we get some rain these birds are clearly going to face a challenge in finding fresh mud for nest-building. Repairing a previous year's nest would be the easy option for them, perhaps taking no more than a couple of days but if starting from scratch they can take up to 18 days to build a new one.
It was a little disappointing that yesterday’s return of House Martins should prompt someone to put a leaflet in our letterbox (and presumably every other letterbox in the area) offering ‘professional help’ in deterring them from nesting. There’s no escaping the fact that breeding House Matins do make a mess and we can accept that preventing them from nesting is much better than knocking down their nests later on after all their effort in building them. However, it does seem a shame that there should be this immediate adverse reaction when we ourselves were so pleased to hear those buzzing pr-prt calls.