May is ending and the House Martins are not nesting under our eaves, again, this year. Their presence, and numbers, was a strong attraction of this old farmhouse when we moved in over twenty years ago. The line of mud nests, worked with diligence and care using the slightest anchor such as the little raised lintel over a window to provide a footing to base the nest tucked in under the eave, were a wonder to watch.
There were many nests, some new, others rebuilt from the remains of a previous year, using mud from the pond in the manner of a clay pot made from little lumps worked together to make a rope along the curved nest wall. The nest appears too small, but the building birds fly back from their foraging flight and with only a split second’s pause enter the small opening at the top.
There have been disputes. Sparrows try to claim nests for their own before the Martins return, but their strident behaviour ends with smashed nests. Sometimes this happens with a winter roost of many wrens squeezed into the refuge on stormy nights, resulting in the nest breaking away from the wall as the last wren pushes in through the gap.
It isn’t as if no House Martins have visited our eaves this month. Two or three pairs have swooped in, checked out the site, even entering the artificial nests we put under the eaves two summers back, but they looked then went elsewhere.
Our eaves have fallen silent. There is little doubt the overall number of House Martins in the country has diminished, but whether it is an overall reduction in population, or that they are going to other breeding grounds, time will tell.
We miss them, always immaculate in their DJ plumage.
STOP PRESS. No sooner had I posted the comment above than, in the sunlight of the late May morning, House Martins, two pairs, have come back to examine the eaves of thye farmhouse again. Fingers crossed they may choose to stay.