Click to enter Studio Club Members Area

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.


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

It is my birthday today and I intend to spend most of the day in the garden. 
There are a couple of orders to send out and some seedlings to drop off, but then it will just be me and this little menace pottering around the vegetable patch and putting seedlings in the ground (and hopefully not digging them up).
Then I will be away from the main Instagram feed for a couple of weeks. 
I will still pop up from time to time in the Studio Club stories feed, but otherwise I'll be on a social media break.

📷 @katgoldin 

#slowliving #mindfulgardening
My elder daughter Zoë asked for a stripy jumper knitted with wool dyed from the garden.
These are the finished skeins - currently curing in the studio - dyed with sweet cicely, dock, bay, birch and nettle.
In a month they will be ready to knit with.
The slowest of slow fashion.

#slowstitching #slowfashion #naturaldyeing #foragedcolour #foragedcolor #naturaldyersofinstagram #sustainablemaking #sustainablecraft #plantdyedyarn #plantdyes
I find that, unless I have a particular time set aside for doing something I often simply don’t get around to it.

Even when that thing takes half an hour, even when I really want to do it. 

So this weekend, in the Studio Club, we set aside some time to start making a balm from daisies. 
I videoed myself as I went along and was there to answer questions. 

It made me realise that it’s actually quite difficult to see from the outside all the things that go on in the Club week to week. 

So I’ve decided to send an extra email every month , just to the people on the waiting list, giving a access to something that is usually members only. 

If you’ve been wondering whether the Studio Club is for you, you can join the waiting list via my profile. 

The next opening is in August. 

#sustainablemaking #slowliving #seasonalhome #daisybalm #herbalife #startwhereyouare #
Kat Goldin came round for a cup of tea and a natter last week - and took this photo of me for the next edition of A Seasonal Way.
I'm posting it today because it shows off the dress that I am inordinately proud of having knitted! 

The bodice is the Deren cardigan by @jacquelinecieslak and the skirt just flares out from that into a mid calf twirl. 
My pride is in the keeping going with the knitting . . . and in eventually using up some of the cones of wool silk yarn that I bought from a mill closure in 1984.

📷 @katgoldin 

#derensweater #derenpullover #jacquelineceislak #embodycapsulecollection #memademay2022 #memademay #memademayplus #memade2022 #sustainablefashion #seasonalhome
A week in dyes - recycled cotton threads from the dye pots, sorted, labelled and curing in the Studio.
From left to right
Sweet Cicely and iron
Bloody dock
Bay and bloody dock
Bay and iron
Sweet Cicely and bloody dock,
Sweet Cicely

This year I’m exploring layering up colours and creating depth and also trying to work out how the base effects colour. 

#botanicaldye #alchemy #growyourowncolour #gameoftones #plantdyed #naturallydyedwool #plantdyersofinstagram #craftwithconscience
#shadesofnature #extractedfromnature #inspiredbynaturesbeauty
#slowstitching #sustainablemaking #foragedcolour
I picked this Black hero tulip when it fell down in the wind and put it so the evening light could shine through the petals - for unlit it looks a little undefined, a little absent, as many dark flowers do.
Then as I took this photo it reminded me of the art nouveau drawings of Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh - the willowy bend, the swoop of the curved base, the full head.
Now I find myself speaking to it as I pass.

#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #tulipblackhero #windowsillwednesday #ihaveathingwithwindows #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #underthefloralspell #slowfloralstyle #petalsandprops #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #cornersofmyhome #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
It is warm enough to have the doors to the dye deck open again - this week there are dock, sweet cicely, bay and nettle in the dye pots, a shuffling around as they steep and simmer.
Today I shall be writing up my initial results for dyeing with bloody dock (rumex sanguineus) for a Studio Club blog. 

I love having that space to put up progress reports - and the report is  very much in progress as the colours on wool and cotton were radically different - so members can follow along with my experiments.
Doors close to the Studio Club tomorrow - and the next intake of new members will be in August. If you fancy a summer of seasonal inspiration and slow living then you can find out more and join at

📷 @katgoldin 

#mystudio #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #allthingsbotanical #mindfulsewing #foragedcolour #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow  #plantdyersofinstagram #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife
I wrote a letter to the new Studio Club members yesterday. 

It was all about Euan’s Granny, and what she said to me when I was a stressed thirty year old. 

It was about what I thought she meant at the time and what I realise she meant now. (The letter actually goes out tomorrow morning so don’t worry if you haven’t got it 😂)

Then I took this photo of tulips at the ends of the vegetable beds and I remembered that at the time I was receiving the grandmotherly advice was also the year that I grew striped tulips for the first time. It was in my back garden in Old Kilpatrick and I took a bunch through for her. 

When we look back there is often such rhythm to our lives. 

#growyourownflowers #slowliving #cornersofmygarden #slowflowers #aseasonalway

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