One activity that most of us can still do during the extended lockdown is keep an eye out for birdlife. In the last day or so the first signs have been seen of House Martins and Swallows returning to the area from Africa. Swifts usually follow a few weeks later; they seem to like slightly warmer weather.
Since all these summer migrant visitors spend most of their time in flight, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between them. The RSPB has a handy guide to identifying them at: https://community.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/b/natureshomemagazine/posts/swift-or-swallow
It can equally be hard to photograph them so if you do have any photos of our summer migrants in and around Long Leys/West Common please do share them with LLRA at email: LLRA@long-leys.org.
Where to See House Martins
The biggest colony of House Martins is probably on Mitchell Drive, where you can spot their mud-built nests under the eaves of houses. There are also nesting sites at homes on Albion Crescent and Carram Way. They will feed above these homes and also on West Common which they visit to pick up material for their nests. You will see House Martins briefly landing to pick up damp mud by the sides of the seasonal ponds on West Common.
Where to See Swallows
Swallows tend to feed over the West Common and can often be seen by the football pitches at the south end of the common. Later in the season they can also be spotted on the telephone wires by the changing rooms close to the tennis courts. They tend to nest in outbuildings, with their nests built from mud and dried grass. The horse stables close to the golf club are a popular location.
Where to See Swifts
Look out for these from early May onwards around Industrial Cottages on Long Leys Road where they also nest.
Helping Summer Migrants
To breed successfully, birds need a suitable nesting site, the correct building materials and plenty of food. House Martin’s and Swallows tend to find suitable locations, but Swifts in particular do struggle. Swifts like high, deep crevices to nest, but because across the UK we’ve lost many old houses and buildings, and as roof spaces are filled or mended, their numbers have declined.
To give Swifts a helping hand there are a number of commercial products available which include:
- Swift bricks that can be built into the brickwork of a home
- For details see https://www.swift-conservation.org/swift_bricks.htm
- Swift nest boxes that can be attached to a home (at least 5 metres above the ground).
- See the RSPB version at: https://shopping.rspb.org.uk/garden-bird-nest-boxes/rspb-swift-nest-box.html
Reporting Them Near Your Home
If you do spot nesting sites for House Martins, Swallows and Swifts then it would help if you could report them using the Bird-Survey software installed on the long-leys.org website. It takes as little as a minute to report a sighting at https://long-leys.org/report-bird-sightings-in-long-leys/ . Just identify the neighbourhood and habitat where you spotted the bird, select the bird species and provide your email address so we can confirm your sighting. You can read more about the Bird-Survey system at https://long-leys.org/bird-survey-background/