Sparrow and House Martins Project
A Wild Maidenhead Biodiversity Action Plan project - 2019-2023
What's the problem?
For as long as modern history recounts, mankind has shared summers with two regular house guests: House Sparrows and House Martins. The relationship has been stable and rewarding until recently, but nowadays, these two guests are in trouble, because there is simply ‘no room at the inn’.
Their names tell us where they invariably want to make their nests: House Sparrows in some cavity or via access to the eaves of our houses; and House Martins attaching a nest - a mud-and-saliva miracle - to the outer brickwork and wooden eaves. But for a variety of reasons, both species are facing real difficulties in achieving breeding success sufficient to maintain populations.
Modern houses, and many of the updating techniques for older ones, effectively lock out the Sparrows, and use materials such as plastics which is much less easy for House Martins to use as the mud won't stick.
What are we planning?
Wild Maidenhead has been assessing the local populations of both these long-serving friends and they are declining. We have therefore made them a target species for our Biodiversity Action Plan. Wild Maidenhead is promoting a scheme to fully assess the status of these two birds throughout the coming summertime (2019). Then we aim to reverse declines with feeding regimes or artificial nest boxes.
What do we need you to do?
We need to know where Sparrows and House Martins are and if they are nesting, in your house, or a neighbour’s. Ideally, we would like volunteers to ‘adopt’ a road, or small estate and become a ‘Sparrow and Martin Ambassador’ for an area, coordinating counts and feeding the data back to us. But even records just for your own house will be valuable.
What am I looking for?
Sparrows lay their first batch of eggs between mid April and early May, often going on to have a second or even third brood. Whilst the female is on eggs, the male is often near the nest entrance chirruping. If you have sparrows at home or nearby, watch for that.
House Martins arrive from Africa in early April and after building up fat reserves on aerial insects, start nest building in May for their own two or three broods. As their nests are external to the building, they are easier to monitor and report on.
We would love to see all the ten wards of the Maidenhead Borough covered this summer so we can map the successful areas, and the empty ones for both species. Please click on the form below Wild Maidenhead to let us know you are interested in helping and we will send further information to you on how to enter records.