Sand Martins at Attenborough


The sand martin hide and artificial nesting bank was built in the winter of 2013-14 and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and provides nesting opportunities for up to 150 sand martins each summer.

The integrated ‘sunken’ bird hide has panoramic views across Coneries Pond and enables visitors to watch the sand martins at close quarters as they feed over the water and return to their nests.  As the nests become established we will use small cameras within the nesting chambers to record the nesting behaviour.

2014 - 7 chicks fledged

2015 - 187 chicks fledged from 43 pairs

2016 - 341 chicks fledged from 62 pairs

2017 - 279 chicks fledged from 59 pairs

2018 - 215 chicks fledged from 57 pairs

Amazingly, Attenborough contributes to around 10% of sand martins ringed in UK and around 10% of sand martin nest record cards completed, so the colony here is significant to the species' conservation in the country.  

Some Facts about Sand Martins (Riparia riparia)

  • Migratory bird and the first true summer migrants to arrive back in the UK each spring
  • Over-winter in the Sahel (a region of Africa south of the Sahara desert) - 3000 miles away
  • Migrate during the day so they can feed while they fly
  • Adults weigh little more than a £2 coin
  • Nests in sandy banks on rivers, cliff faces or at earthworks such as Attenborough
  • Excavate a nesting tunnel with their sharp claws and small beaks
  • Tunnels can be up to 1 metre long with a nesting chamber at the end
  • Lay 4-5 white eggs and these take 14 days to hatch
  • Chicks fledge afer 19-24 days although they still rely on their parents for fod for another two weeks

Video from inside the Sand Martin hide


The hide replaces an old artificial nesting bank which had collapsed over time.  Access to the new hide is through the Nature Centre and will be open duing Centre opening hours.  Please note that it may be closed for short periods for nest surveys and ringing chicks.

Access to all the 150 nest tubes allows staff and volunteers to monitor nests and ring the chicks.  We will be able to gather information on nest success each season for scientific study.