From 1 to 100! - House Martin Nest Update

article written by Ellen Lee, Data Manager

As you may remember, we put a plea out a while back for people to let us know where house martins are nesting in Oxford City. This was inspired by me discovering that TVERC held only a single record of a house martin nest in the last 10 years. Thanks to everyone who got back to us telling us where to find nests, I have been cycling slowly around the streets of Oxford staring up at the house eaves, and can now report that I have found 104 house martin nests as shown on the accompanying map. As you will spot straight away, all the nests I found (apart from those around Bury Knowle Park in Headington) are in the north and north-west of the city. I’ve pedalled around most of Oxford on my lockdown excursions and am a little bit surprised that I’ve not been able to find any around Donnington or Iffley (for example). I haven’t given up, so if you know of some nests I’ve missed then please get in touch.

One of the interesting things to come out of TVERC’s appeal for information was a report on the house martins of Oxford put together by John Melling who is the BTO representative for Oxfordshire. It shows that nationally, their population is now about 1/3 of what it was in 1980 and that there was a very steep decline in the mid 1980s. This was probably due to the increase of urbanisation and infill building in the city. Below is a graph produced from data collected for the BTO common bird census.

Apparently during a survey in Oxford in the early 1930s over 700 nests were recorded in the city and only one of the fourteen 2 x 2 mile squares covering Oxford did not have any nests! The number of nests had decreased to a little less than 500 by the mid 1960s when the next survey was carried out. Then, nesting was common, even in central Oxford. For example, there were nests in St Clements, something it’s difficult to imagine these days!

Posted: July 30, 2020