Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Now Our Little Burrowers Can Borrow Nesting Chamber

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Now Our Little Burrowers Can Borrow Nesting Chamber

Article excerpt

Byline: TONY HENDERSON ENVIRONMENT

TOP TEN SIGHTINGS IN REGION Tyne and Wear: starling; house sparrow; blackbird; woodpigeon; blue tit; goldfinch; magpie; feral pigeon; robin; jackdaw.

Northumberland: house sparrow; starling; blackbird; blue tit; chaffinch; woodpigeon; goldfinch; great tit; collared dove; robin.

County Durham: house sparrow; starling; blackbird; blue tit; chaffinch; woodpigeon; goldfinch; jackdaw; great tit; robin.

Tees Valley: house sparrow; starling, blackbird; blue tit; woodpigeon; goldfinch; robin; great tit; magpie; collared dove.

ASURPRISE awaits sand martins as they begin to arrive on the North East coast at the end of their migration flight from Africa.

After almost two years of planning and construction, conservationists have created an artificial bank of 140 nest burrows at a seafront nature reserve in Whitburn Coastal Park, near Souter lighthouse in South Tyneside.

It has been built in response to setbacks which have afflicted the birds as they nest in the soft clay under the clifftops along a twomile stretch from Marsden bay to Whitburn.

The birds dig burrows, at the end of which are nesting chambers. But, often after heavy rain, the soil can collapse, destroying nests and eggs or burying chicks.

The loss of 46 nests in 2016 after such a slump was the signal for action and plans for the nest bank.

The Local Environmental Action Fund of the Community Foundation of Tyne and Wear and Northumberland provided financial backing, while Network Rail chipped in with design plans and staff volunteers.

More volunteers arrived from the local Coastal Conservation Group, and Sunderland firm J T Atkinson came up with building materials at a heavy discount.

"After 46 nests were occupied in 2016 and we lost the lot, we decided to do something to give the birds a chance," said Dougie Holden, ranger for the National Trust on The Leas coastal stretch in South Tyneside.

"We've witnessed nest tunnels collapsing in recent years and it's heartbreaking. We want to help prevent this happening again, so we're really excited to be opening the imitation nest bank to try and help this species to thrive locally.

"It's been a wonderful project to be involved in and now we just need to wait for our first guests to arrive."

Clay pipes have been used to create the bank burrows, leading to a nest box chamber. "The pipes are packed with sand so that the birds can burrow just as they would in the wild," said Dougie.

"Sand martins feed over water which makes The Leas the perfect home for them. The nest bank overlooks the pond in Whitburn Coastal Park which is the ideal hunting ground for parents to feed chicks."

The bank has an access door so that volunteers can monitor the nest chambers, chicks can be ringed, and data collected for the British Trust for Ornithology's Nest Record Scheme. …

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