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Homeless martins love an ice-cream tub nest; nature watch.

WE KNOW birds don't like ice cream, but what some of the visiting birds raising their young in the UK this summer would love are your empty ice cream tubs.

The tubs make ideal homes for breeding house martins when theirs are damaged by the weather.

House martins build nests on outer walls of buildings under the eaves out of pellets of mud mixed with grass and lined with feathers and vegetable fibre. These have a tendency to fall with the young still inside, and a dry spell is likely to lead to this happening more frequently as the mud dries and there is less grip.

A substitute nest may encourage the parents to continue to feed them and a strong box or wall-hanging container, deep enough to prevent the young falling out, is usually successful.

The RSPB recommends an ice cream tub as the perfect alternative, with a few easy steps creating the perfect temporary house martin home: 1. Take an empty four-litre ice cream tub and cut an entrance in one of the longer sides, approximately 25 mm deep and 60-65 mm wide; 2. Make two small holes for fixing on the opposite side of the box; 3. Roughen the surface beneath the entrance hole to help the young birds scramble up to the opening; 4. Make two small drainage holes in the bottom of the tub and then put in the remains of the old nest or add hay to the tub; 5. Fix firmly in place as near to the original site as possible. Add the young birds and replace the lid.

The cries of the young should encourage the parents back very quickly. If the tub is high under the eaves, the lid may be left off.

The breeding season runs from May to August when insects are abundant, but some chicks are still in the nest in September.

House martins are frequently double-brooded and three broods are not uncommon so falling nests could occur over the next few weeks.

For more information visit Dana Thomas is communications officer for RSPB Cymru
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 3, 2010
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