It’s the pits that will house martins

I was very pleased when I saw the date that this week s column fell upon. Now we are officially into the second half of March, I have every excuse to write about spring and leave the winter behind. It should only be a matter of days now before I see my fi

I was very pleased when I saw the date that this week's column fell upon. Now we are officially into the second half of March, I have every excuse to write about spring and leave the winter behind.

It should only be a matter of days now before I see my first sand martin of the year down at the local gravel pits. There will be plenty of flies for these tiny migrants to feed on this March.

They nest in the 'cliff faces' created by the extensive quarrying activities there and dig their nest chambers in the soft sand.

It doesn't take them long to start to investigate potential nest sites and they buzz in and out of quarries checking out the best faces on (or rather in) which to start a colony.


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Providing there has not been further work over winter, or any collapsing due to the winter rain and wind, there is every chance they will use previous years' nest sites.

A blackcap was singing at the end of my road at the end of February, but he was certainly a wintering bird (that come to the UK from Germany) tuning up rather than a newly-arrived migrant, as after a couple of days of half-hearted warbling, there was no more to be heard. 'Real' migrant blackcaps won't be here until the first week of April.

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Listen out for the unmistakable song of the chiffchaff. They are arriving from Africa every day now.

They may not be much to look at (being essentially a "little brown job"!), but they have a lovely cheery song in which they repeat their name.

A classic rendition would be "chiff-chaff, "chiff-chaff, "chiff-chaff", "chiff-chaff". Even if you have never heard this 'sound of spring' before, you will know it when you do.

This is one bird that makes it easy for would-be identifiers of birds. Just think, if all birds sang their names, identifying them would be a breeze!

Mallard ducklings will soon be cropping up all over the place, causing all sorts of problems for traffic police as the mothers walk their young across roads, taking them from their place of birth to the nearest water.

There is the inevitable straggler in every family party, or perhaps it is just badly behaved, refusing to what do what mum says.

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