Sand Martins – forty years ago in my nature notebooks

Forty years ago, before I was even a teenager, I started keeping detailed nature notebooks. A lined notepad and a blue biro, a set of pencil crayons and a manual film camera were all I needed. That and regular Monday night trips out with retired gentlemen from the local microscopical and natural history society dressed in tweeds smoking their stinking briar pipes. Here’s my entry for Sand Martins:

Sand Martin - 1970s Nature Notebooks - The Hall of Einar

It was such a thrill to see them again in 2017:

Sand Martin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

This time I had a 36 megapixel digital camera with GPS and a 500mm telephoto lens with me instead of a notebook and biro. How times change.

Linnaeus wrote about Sand Martins in his Systema naturae in 1758: Habitat in Europae collibus arenosis abruptis, foramine serpentino “It lives in Europe, in winding holes in sheer sandy hills”


In the past 50 years the European population of Sand Martins has collapsed twice because of drought in their African winter homes. Here’s the international distribution of Sand Martins:

Sand Martin distribution

Accessed here:

They are under pressure in the UK from habitat loss.

Sand Martin Breeding Maps

Accessed here:

Like many birds they are dependent upon a wide range of habitats and move about the globe over the year to what we primitive, tribal humans think are different countries.

Sand Martins

The population estimated by Birdlife International is somewhere between 10,000,000-500,000,000 (factsheet here)

How many will there be in another 40 years?

Sand Martin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

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