It’s a Beautiful World. Sand Martins and Serenity.

Posted on 08/10/2020 By

Sand Martins.

Bobby looking out to sea down the line of the groyne at East Preston. A pebble beach leading to a calm, blue sea.

Serenity by the sea at East Preston.

It’s a beautiful world. Serenity and Sand Martins.

We all need a bit of serenity in these troubled times. But, it may be that you have to find it. It could be on your doorstop. It certainly is on Andrew’s doorstep at East Preston. We go there most Sundays. Watch Daisy-Mae play football for EPU12 in the morning. Go for a bike ride, or just sit by the sea on a lovely day. This was a couple of weeks ago. The tide was coming in; rustling the shingle. People were walking with their dogs. Just a few down on the beach.

An old lady stopped to say “hello”. How, living nearby, she loved this walk every day. Bobby said he loved watching the birds, which it seemed went unnoticed to many. “Look! There’s a small flock of Sanderlings.” Beautiful little birds, with tiny dancing webbed feet. They are winter visitors. Or just passing through. The beach here is a food stop. Breeding in the high Arctic in the Spring and Summer.



Over there some Turnstones. Flicking the stones over hunting for Sand Hoppers and other insects.



“KEEK KEEK” is the distinctive call of a couple of Common Terns flying by.

Common Tern.

Common Tern.

She listened and nodded. As you do to Bobby when he is on a favourite subject. And said “I just love the sea. The breeze in your face and the feeling of freedom. I love the change of the seasons. It’s a lovely day today, but Autumn is just round the corner and then Winter and I will still walk along here most days. And realise how lucky I am.”

Bobby replied “Have you noticed while we have been chatting the Swallows passing by? Small groups spread out. All heading determinedly east along the coast. Building up their fat reserves and contemplating their long flights to Africa. Heading east, maybe, where the Channel crossing is shorter. For many the first time since they left the nest this very Summer. Over the sea; the continents; even the Sahara Desert. If they make it there and back next Spring, they will return to where they were born. It’s a beautiful world.”

They agreed. Which leads us to:

Sand Martins at Arundel.

As you know, we love the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. Slimbridge has been featured many times before, but our home reserve is Arundel, where we have been members for over 25 years.

The Wildlife and Wetlands Trust main entrance at Arundel. Bobby's bike is parked outside.

The Wildlife and Wetlands Trust at Arundel. (Yes, he cycled there. From East Preston).

The lakes and the river within and close to the reserve have always attracted the Summer birds. The Swallows and Martins. One in particular – the less familiar Sand Martin. The smallest of the Hirundines (Swallows and Martins). These little birds live in colonies by making nests in sand banks. By the river. Even quarries. The WWT made the enlightened decision a few years ago to build an artificial sand bank to encourage the birds to start a colony. Part of the bank was incorporated into a hide, in which you can sit and watch all the wild birds that come to Arundel. Last week the main activity was Sand Martins flashing backwards and forwards across the lake. Building up their fat reserves before they join the Swallows on their long journey south. Many of these are youngsters. It’s been a good Summer at Arundel and second broods were the norm.

There was an air of serenity sitting in that hide undisturbed watching these masters of the air flashing backwards and forwards and across the lake. Now and again they were joined by a few House Martins and the occasional Swallow.

We were on Denbies hillside last week for a while and House Martins were passing in small groups. All heading east.

It’s not the end, as Diddley once thought. The end of Summer and Autumn and Winter to endure. We showed her the treasures of the seasons. How just as many birds come to this country for the Winter. And, of course, in February 1999 Bobby asked her to marry him in a hide at Slimbridge, with just the wild Swans as witnesses.

The Sand Martin hide.

The Sand Martin hide.

A Sand Martin colony.

A Sand Martin colony.

Inside the hide.

Inside the hide.

The view from the hide, where you can see dozens of little birds flashing to and fro.

The view from the hide, where you can see dozens of little birds flashing to and fro.

From information boards inside the hide.

From information boards inside the hide.

Information board on Sand Martins.

Information board on WWT.

Hope you can read it. (Click on image for larger version).

Sand Martin quiz board for children.

For the children.

And the other side with the answer.

Were you right?

The hide plan.

The hide plan. (Click on image for larger version).

Sand Martin in flight, viewed from underneath.

So goodbye Sand Martins when you leave. Good luck on your epic journeys and we look forward to seeing you return next Spring.

Lighting a Candle for Diddley.

A candle lit for Diddley in a mug with Sand Martins around the outside.

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