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Country News - 2003

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Help wanted for dirty lodgers

Tuesday 22 April 2003

BIRD-LOVERS are being urged to make houseroom available this spring for a mysterious - but none to clean - lodger.

The first house martin to arrive in Britain for the summer has just been reported to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in a most unlikely spot - Yorkshire's East Riding - and many more will be with us soon.

House martins are, however, messy lodgers which build their nests on walls and their droppings can cause a problem. The BTO is appealing to bird lovers to take a lenient view - and perhaps put down trays underneath the nests.

They are also asking members of the public to help the nesting process this very dry spring because house martins need mud as the raw material for their homes: if your land is very dry, please fill empty puddle holes with water!

If this seems a lot of bother, the BTO points out that the house martin is one of the world's more mysterious birds. Its winter life 3,000mile away in Africa has kept ornithologists perplexed for decades.

Although almost 300,000 have been ringed in Britain and Ireland over the decades, only one ringed specimen has ever been found south of the Sahara. And scientists still do not know how they pass their nights during the winter - and some speculate that they in fact sleep on the wing high in the African skies.

For more information about house martins and other migrating birds, log onto www.bto.org/migwatch


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