Beaks full of mud

The start of the summer season heralds the return of the house martins to their breeding grounds here in Britain.

Here in Aberystwyth I am lucky enough to live next to the harbour which is a favourite breeding spot used year by the martins each year. I only have to step outside my door to be surrounded by these birds wheeling through the air, the sky filled with the sound of their stacatto calls.

A house martin – white below with an electric blue head and wings

The estuary water provides them with the insects on which they feed and, during low tide, a large expanse of sticky mud is revealed. The birds collect this mud with great enthusiasm to build their nests, something I was keen to try and photograph.

The house martins appeared to have a few favourite spots where they would land and scoop up beaks full of mud and algae. In particular they seem to like the bottom of the harbour slipway so by positioning myself here and patiently waiting I was able to get the images I had hoped for.

The martins were quite happy to fly and land within a few feet of me provided I didn’t make any sudden movements to startle them.

Here are some of the results, I must say I am really rather pleased with them!

Filling their beaks and crops with mud


Squabbling over the best spot




Landing gear down


Gathering mud as a flock
Preparing for take off

All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography 2016 ©

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