Monday, 28 July 2014

Sunny Sand Martins

I often see nice bits of urban wildlife on my walk to the Discovery Centre from the train station. Lately I’ve been cheered by the sight of Sand Martins (Riparia riparia) flying around over the River Aire by Leeds Bridge.

These are amazing birds, related to the more familiar Swallow and House Martin. They are called Sand Martins because they usually nest in holes in sandy banks, but these ones have been nesting in holes eroded in the sandstone walls of the buildings by the river. They were feeding on small insects flying above the river. Sand Martins are only in the UK over summer, and will migrate to Africa for the winter.

Here’s one of the Sand Martins in our collection (pictured above) at Leeds Museum Discovery Centre. It was an immature Sand Martin, collected in Arthington near Leeds in 1888 by F. W. Branson.

My colleague Kirsty Garrod and her team of volunteers and interns have been improving the condition of and access to our bird skin collection through the Skin Deep project, funded by the Designation Development Fund, part of Arts Council England. Our bird skins and other collections can be used to help conserve biodiversity, as well as being fascinating in their own right.

By Natural Sciences Curator Rebecca Machin

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