Another wonderful day, with full sunshine right from the start, I was awake at five o'clock so I can vouch for that. Over the last few weeks the House Martins have put in short visits to fly around the larches, however this morning they were flying around the houses and spending time inspecting the eves and old nest locations. We moved here late in 1993, and the following summer I was delighted to find that House Martins were looking to nest. I think this was probably due to the availability of suitable building materials as the road was not finished, and the sand and cement left over from the building site was very much to their liking. As a boy I had always wanted house martins to nest on my house, they nested at my school, and I can remember then swooping low over our heads and up into their nests as we ran around in the playground on a warm summer's day. I had even tried to attract them to my old house in Oxford with a very basic nesting platform. Unfortunately this didn't work, but the nesting platform still remains to this day, and I often wonder what the owners think it is! I was thrilled to find them nesting at the back and front of our house in Four Marks. That summer it was quite hot and dry, and to help them in their building, I even watered the road to provide sufficient mud for their nests.
Over time the love affair with these lovely little birds has waned a little, they do make a mess, plus the thought of painting soffits always filled me with dread, so the move to UPVC soffits was inevitable. The wooded soffits provided a better surface for the nests to grip to, and as more houses changed, the number of nests failing or falling down increased. We have had nests since on our house, and we have seen birds fledge, in some cases just before the nest fell down, and we have had a nestling rescued after the nest fell. The overall numbers succesfully nesting have fallen in the past years due I'm sure to these changes, which seems to be in line with the national status.
Over the last two years a pair have tried to build above our bedroom window, and on warm morning with the window ajar the endless chatter from the pair as they squabble over the build can wake you up. They have not yet succeeded.
This morning I watched a pair on a house with wooden soffits, starting their build, so there is a little hope there. They would swoop up and plant some mud, then the mate would come in and cling to the wall, and both would berate each other before one left to get more mud, returning to get the same verbals. Fascinating to watch and listen to them. They will always be the sign of the start of summer for me, and remind me of what always seemed like endless sunny and warm days at New Hinksey Primary School.
Later that morning I took my father-in-law into Old Down to try and see the Tawny Owl, unfortunately though the owl wasn't to be found, it's usual roost tree being empty. It was lovely though walking through the wood with the birdsong, and the sunshine. Just as we came out a Red Admiral drifted by.