Monday, 22 June 2009

Cliff Martins

We call them house martins now but traditionally they must have been cliff nesters. There used to be a good cliff nesting colony at Howick in Northumberland but these disappeared some years ago now. So, wandering the northernmost coastline of England just to the north of Berwick upon Tweed I was pleased to come across a colony that I had not seen before.
According to the RSPB, these birds began using buildings in the 19th century and as we built more and more, traditional nest sites became 'all but abandoned' in the early 1900s.
Whilst it is great to have a colony on your house, the birds seem more appropriate on a wild sea cliff winging it with the fulmars.
The Berwick colony uses a wonderfully wind-sculpted cliff on which the nests are all but invisible. Click the photo and play spot the nests.


  1. That's interesting - I've never seen house martins nesting anywhere other than on buildings. I've seen some fine sand martin colonies recently - on the banks of the Tyne near the bridge over the river at Corbridge and on those low cliffs at Whitburn rocks, just below the car park. The birds fly low over the rotting seaweed on the strandline, catching seaweed flies. tried to photograph them but they were too close and too fast!

  2. Hi Phil. Its a pity that these cliff colonies have dwindled as much but I suppose there are just so many buildings now offering more shelter than a sea cliff does.