Last night I headed up to Moulton Quarry I only had late afternoon/evening to squander so went for the Sandmartins. I arrived and was the only person present for a short time. I was joined by two teachers and some students from the nearby private school at Pitsford. They were just doing that all important 'thing' of being outdoors sliding down the mounds on sheets of plastic etc. It was quite amusing to watch, something I thought schools didn't do anymore. But something wasn't right I wasn't seeing any Sandmartins at all. The students left so decided to look a bit closer at the colony. A few of the holes showed evidence of small'ish scratch marks at/near the entrance of the nest holes, maybe the stoat had a feast?
I waited a whole hour, nothing, normally you wait 2 minutes maximum before seeing the flock. I started to search their preferred hunting areas, two birds! But mostly Swallows/Swifts/House Martins. I rechecked the House Martins just in case, nope. By the time I left the site I had seen three Sandmartins 1 adult 2 juveniles. It was getting dark (10:05pm)nothing! This ain't right. Normally Sandmartins have just one brood some have two broods. But that varies within their breeding range, this is only my second season at the quarry so don't have enough notes to compare what the 'norm' is.
So given the threat from Stoats/Sparrowhawk/Crows etc and general disturbance have they taken their brood to safety? Again typically here at this site the young normally sit out on the phone wires being fed and don't normally leave until back end of August so it's either mass evacuation of the site or mass predation, weirdly currently as I type I have a flock of Swallows/Housemartins over my house, only ever see them over my house on migration, last night I had circa 30 Swifts screaming over my house which is the first Swifts sighting over my house this summer, normally we get loads so is there an early movement of these birds?
My biggest concern however are the Hobbies at Quarry Walk. I and a few others haven't seen them since my last post. I had 8 birds on site and 3 nests. On one easy to view nest at the start of June I saw a female hunkering down and start what appeared to incubating duties. Now, nest empty. I really can't check the other two nests properly without trespassing but going from seeing 8 birds then 3 (plus 3 incubating) then zero is a genuine worry. The nest that was easy to view the bird wasn't present on my last visit (remember battle re-enactment?) Disturbance? Nest failure? Persecution? I did hear AGAIN coming from the railway line section of the quarry a "silenced riffle" being used. These guys apparently are after things on the quarry list. From what I've seen rabbits and rats being killed. I've seen Kestrel/Sparrowhawk/Buzzard/Red Kite all successfully breed here so I'm not 100% it's persecution or it's these guys doing the nasty deed BUT we've had Cormorants killed here in 2013 so there's history. Can't blame lack of food neither plenty of it around, maybe they were immature breeders and just going through the motion. IT JUST SEEMS ODD THAT ONCE THEY STARTED TO NEST THEY VANISHED! I guess it's easier to hit a Hobby sat on a nest then in flight.....I'm hoping I'm fussing over nothing