- Here’s a really nice piece we received this week from
- about a colony of Sand Martins at Red Strand (An Tráigh Dhearg), Cork.
It’s mid-April and the day is bright. There is a glare over the sea and a light offshore breeze cools the exposed shore. Fifty sand martins (Riparia riparia) wheel restlessly in the low sky over the wet-sheeted sand. The birds’ contrasting dark brownish grey and light cream feathers attract my attention as they fly quickly to and fro, ranging along a twenty-foot high cliff. A few of them land on the sand briefly in order to drink from small marsh springs that spread across the strand. All the while they chatter to each other with a kind of soft rolling screech.
The cliff behind consists of sandstone and glacial till topped with a bed of blown sand. This last layer is peppered with holes and it is to these that the birds return at intervals. Then they cling in pairs to the slipping sand just below the holes; their pointed wings folded neatly downwards, stationed side-by-side like couples renewing their vows. A few birds enter the burrows, before poking their heads out to observe the others’ liveliness. Then, once more they collect en masse to fly out and feed on the abundant black flies of spring.