Animal

Conservationists build 400-tonne sandcastle in Surrey to attract sand martin birds


Spynes Mere nature reserve in Surrey, which was formally a quarry (Picture: PA)

In an effort to attract sandmartins, bird conservationist in Surrey have built an incredible structure.

Surrey Wildlife Trust are hoping that a 400-tonne ‘sandcastle’ they erected will bring nesting sandmartins back to the area for the first time in 25 years.

The installation is located at Spynes Mere, near Merstham, Surrey, is 20 metres long, and was made just a real sandcastle but with a ‘giant bucket mould’ made of wood.

The nature reserve gets visits each year from sand martins as they migrate from sub-Sarahan Africa in their droves through March to September.

However, if this structure is successful, it’ll be the first time in a quarter of a century that these feathered friends have nested in the area.

Surrey Wildlife Trust worked with a sand sculpting company Sand In Your Eye. Jamie Wardley, a sand sculptor at the company, said: ‘We have only used sand from the site to create the structure from a giant bucket mould made from wooden boards.

‘We added water to create the right mix, compacted the sand, and three to four weeks later the boards were removed.’

The tiny birds build their nests in the sand walls (Picture: PA)

Sand martins are a bird known for their size, at roughly 12cm tall in most cases.

They normally build their home by burying into the sand with their talons, but there has been a steep drop in numbers over the years as river banks have become more built-up (and therefore there’s less sand for the birds to nest in).

The marshy spot at Spynes Mere should provide somewhere for sand martins to nest year after year.

Sand sculptors worked to help test out and build the installation (Picture: PA)

James Herd, project manager at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said of the installation: ‘Sand martin numbers have plummeted twice in the last 50 years as a result of droughts in their wintering grounds in Africa.

‘In the UK, the natural nesting inland habitat along riverbanks has decreased as rivers pass through more urbanised areas and under roads, and quarrying has ceased.

‘So creating this nest bank is important to protect them against the boom and bust nature of their nesting sites and give more security for the population to expand.’

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