Click to enter The Studio Club

You’ve viewed

You haven't yet viewed any products on our store. If you've been here before, you may need to sign in.

Blog

House Martins

house martin nature notes

House martins are one of the heralds of spring here - swooping through the skies, catching midges. They may be here for only a few months but they live close amongst us - when the doors to the dye deck are open they swoop into the studio, circle and leave.

Wherever there is an overhanging roof or a handy corner, they will move in and begin constructing complex colonies of nests, often inconveniently above doorways. We have one group of nests above the bathroom window here, another above the back door.

Of course this wasn’t always the case, and up until the beginning of the C19th they were just known as martins. Most of them would make their nests in caves and on the underhang of cliffs, tucked in out of the wind. By 1900 though they had moved to easier territories, sticking their nests to the outside of houses, protected from predators and their name changed.

Each nest is intricately made up from about 1000 beak sized pellets, mainly mud which it then reinforced with strands of grass. If you are lucky you can watch them scoop up mud from wet ground, flying up to build another bit of the nest – at dusk you can see the lines of that day’s building, a darker line of wet mud. It takes 1-2 weeks to build a nest from scratch but only a couple of days to repair one from the previous year.

When we built a covered deck at the back of the house one year the house martins spent a couple of days circling their old nesting site and then decided to remodel rather than rebuild. They changed the position of the entrance - by filling the existing one in and cutting out a new one - to fit their new flight path to the side of the roof.

There are about 510,000 breeding pairs of house martins in the UK, each bird weighs only 20g and the average life expectancy is 2 years, though the oldest recorded was 14 years old.

The birds are socially monogamous – and will remain in the same breeding pairs for their life span. But they are prone to a bit of action on the side and a study in Scotland found that a third of nests had chicks from more than one father in them. While the male is off catching flies his rival will sneak into the nest.

Typically house martins will raise two broods in a year – the eggs hatch in 14-16 days and fledglings will leave the nest 22 days after hatching, returning to roost there for a couple of weeks with some still relying on parents for food.

One of the delights of this summer was watching the fledgling housemartins on the sweet pea trellis - with their parents chirping encouragement to try and get them to fly and catch their own food.

In late August and September house martins begin to gather on telephone wires, waiting to leave on their great migration to Sub Saharan Africa.

One of the things I find amazing is that at present we do not know exactly where they go once they leave the UK – there have been tracking projects to try and find out but so far none have been successful. Only one of the thousands of ringed birds has been found in Africa – in Nigeria. The rest seem to fly to and from the continent without being spotted by birdwatchers at all. I love that there are still mysteries like this in the world.

House martins are on the RSPB’s Amber warning list – numbers are decreasing. This may be due to the widespread use of insecticides and also to drought which makes both their migration and their nesting more difficult.

This is something that you can help with - they need wet mud to build their nests but they will also patch up already exisiting nesting sites. If you have heavy clay in your garden and it is dry them pour a bucket of water over it so that it becomes good nest building material. If you don’t have any suitable mud and you want to encourage them to nest on your house there are composite nests available which you can mount on your wall under the eaves.

You may also enjoy …

Comments: 0 (Add)

You must be signed in to post a comment. If you're already a member, please sign in now. If not, you can create an account here.

Snapdragon social

Stillness is such a difficult skill to acquire.  I suspect that so much of the rushing about that we do is simply an attempt to avoid being still.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
For if we stopped, paid attention to ourselves, to the world around us, let everything sink in - well that might be very scary.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
But I do think it is the most important skill - a five minute pause, a checking in.  I'm not talking about meditation here - nothing as formal as that - just a stilling and listening and paying attention. Appreciation, recognition, renewal.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It is something that I am very bad at by nature - but I have been taking lessons from Dixie. 

For if a spaniel can relax into stillness, nosing into a shaft of sunshine, then I'm sure I can.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Teasel isn't quite there yet.

#aseasonalway #springerspaniel #springerspanielsofinstagram #slowlivingforlife #lessonsfromdogs #bringyourdogtowork #storiesoftheeveryday
One thing that gardening teaches you year on year is that so much is beyond your control. Some things will thrive, others won’t, and mostly it will be nothing to do with anything you’ve done. 
Some years will be great for one crop, terrible for another. This is a great year for garlic here, awful for beans. 

It’s the same with business - a lot of things happen that are due to the ‘weather’ of the world. We can pivot and turn, change our tactics, Google ‘how to make reels’ and so on - but we can also choose to embrace and lean into what is working well. 

My Friday letter today is about social media and all the ways I’ve used to connect with people over the past 21 years - if you fancy a read you can sign up in my profile. 

And in the meantime I’d love to know what’s growing well for you. Or indeed, what has been a disaster! 

#theartofslowliving #livethelittlethings #nothingisordinary #natureandnourish #embracingaslowerlife #aseasonalway #seekthesimplicity #scotlandsgardens #growyourownfood #cornersofmyworld #greenthumb #rusticgamesttong #cornersofmyworld #simpleandstill #vintagegreenhouse
Each year I have a personal project running.  Something just for me. Something that allows me to experiment and play. 
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The first year that I became obsessed with using the plants here to dye textiles - back in 2019 - it was twelve skeins of a raw slubby silk yarn that I  had been hoarding for decades. They became a patchwork cable blanket that now sits on the back of the sofa.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
In 2020 it was double knitting yarns, in dozens of colours, knitted into a stripy jumper to keep me cosy in the Studio.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Last year I dyed linens and am gradually making them into patchworks and appliqués - many I am squirrelling away for a project that I may or may not ever begin.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
This year I am using mini skeins - in an attempt to keep it more manageable - and exploring the differences in colour caused by the pH of the original extraction. 
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
There are four skeins for each plant, two for neutral extraction, two for alkali - with one of each pair being dipped in iron to 'sadden' the colour.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
If science had been like this at school I might have paid more attention . . . .

#botanicaldye #alchemy #growyourowncolour #gameoftones #plantdyed #naturallydyedwool #plantdyersofinstagram #craftwithconscience
#shadesofnature #extractedfromnature #inspiredbynaturesbeauty #plantdyedyarn #naturaldyedyarn #foragedcolour
This is a tomato salad that was inspired by one I ate a few years ago in a cafe in Mingun, Myanmar,
There it was mainly made with green tomatoes, sharp against the shrimp powder.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
In Myanmar the military junta have begun to execute activists arrested after the coup in February 2021. The brutality and violence continue, the quashing of democracy, the corruption. 

11,759 people, arrested after the coup, remain in detention, 78 people, including two children, have been sentenced to death.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
You won't usually find much out about Myanmar in the 'fed to you' media, but this week there has been reporting and a Dispatches programme about mass killings  was on Channel 4 on Monday.  The Guardian has consistently been the newspaper reporting most on the aftermath of the coup and you can also follow hashtags like #whatishappeninginmyamar here. 
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
There may seem little we can actively do about the horrors in the world, but people involved always say that what matters is knowing that people care, bear witness and don’t simply forget when the news cycle moves on.
We always have a slight breeze here - a blessing as it stops the midges flying.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It often gets up at night after a warm day, seeming to breathe its way round corners. 
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
If you walk through the garden in the evening at the moment, the scent of Lilium regale drifts about you in eddies of spice.

#simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #underthefloralspell #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
The more I travel down this road the more I realise that deciding how you live, which values you honour, what you will prioritise all have to be deliberately chosen. 
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
You can’t just drift into a slower, more intentional life. 
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
You can’t buy it. 
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
You have to make a commitment to actually live it. 
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
And that’s not always easy. 
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It is why I go to events like last weekend’s summer camp @thegoodlifesoc . 
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It is also why I surround myself with a supportive community where my choices don’t seem weird.

It is why my to do list today has sitting with a coffee taking in the swoony scent of the sweet peas on it. 

#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #cornersofmyhome #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
This is the actual physical Studio.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It is a little cabin between meadow and wood - a space for creativity and connection a space that I deliberately and intentionally worked towards for a number of years.  There is a sunny deck looking onto trees for the summer, a wood burning stove for the winter.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The Studio is also another thing - it is a club of amazing people who are intentionally prioritising their creativity and connection to the natural world. 
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It is a community of great humour, support and inspiration - the best thing that I have ever had a hand in.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The Studio Club is closed to new members at the moment and the doors will open to new members again on the Autumn Equinox. 

I'm currently working with @fbarrows, who is providing a gentle and encouraging outside eye, as I decide on what we will be doing in the club over the next six months.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I've been surveying all the members to find out exactly what it is they enjoy most, what they feel I could do better. 

In this week’s Friday letter I've included a link to a short survey, because I  think it would also be useful to know what people who follow me, but are not members, feel about these things. 
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
If you get it, it would help me so much if you could take a minute to fill it out - there are only five questions and there is also a bribe . . . .

#slowlivingforlife #simplelife #whereiwork #simpleandslow #creativelifehappylife
The more we actively take time to pause, to sit still and watch, the more we see. 
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
My Friday Letter this week is all about taking advantage of some unwanted early wakening and starting to use the binoculars which have been hanging on the coat rail for eighteen months.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Twenty minutes with a cup of tea, the binoculars and a lawn full of early birds and their worms.

#momentslikethese
#the_gentle_manifesto
#daysofsmallthings
#natureandnourish
#aseasonalway
#daysofsimpleandslow
#ournaturedays
#aquietmoment
#pocketsofslow
#thesweetlifeunscripted
#folkandstory
#pause
snapdragon.life
FacebookTwitterPinterest

About Snapdragon Life

In the Studio Club I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Find out more about The Studio Club

Loading