Three years ago Sand In Your Eye collaborated with the RSPB to design an artificial sand bank as a habitat for Sand Martins. The location is RSPB Langford Lowfields Reedbed Restoration Reserve.
I was amazed to see how successful the bank has been. Each year over 200 nests are made in the bank and it has even survived full emersion as the river Trent burst its banks last year.
Mike Copleston from the RSPB spearheaded the project and said “The artificial sand martin bank is purpose built to look and function as naturally as possible with sand martin nesting ecology.”
The site is a working Lafarge Tarmac quarry. During mineral extraction the landscape is decimated and the RSPB are commissioned to regenerate the area as a reedbed reserve. It has been hugely successful with an array of birds and fish stocks settling in the site including the reclusive Bittern.
Sand Martins have been long term residents as they attempted to nest in the sand mounds of the quarry causing difficulties for the industry and the potential of nests collapsing.
The RSPB therefore requested the expertise of Sand In Your Eye to help design an artificial sand bank. Mike Copleston outlined the key sand martin specifications as “a vertical face (2.5 meters high) to limit predation impacts from predators such as weasels and foxes. It is also designed to be concave as the birds have a preference to view each other in a colonial set-up. Parasite loading – in particular fleas, are a key reason for sand martin’s excavating new nest chambers annually. For this reason the bank needed to be designed so that it could be cut back annually for between 4-7 years by the volunteers so a new face is exposed each spring.
So together with Paul on the digger we set about compacting a 130 tonne structure that was integrated into the existing bank using the quarry’s waste sand from the extraction process. It was 7 meters wide, 2.5 meters high and 5 meters in depth. The folks at the RSPB then topped it off with some wire mesh, top soil and seeds to integrate the structure and to reduce surface erosion and digging. The structure houses Sand Martins to this day and may also be suitable for King Fishers. All in all it has been a great success.