​An unusual build-to-suit

Sustainability: Ecology & Environment

While we were building a new mail sorting hub and head office for UK Mail at Prologis Park Ryton, we realised that a family of sand martins, migrating north from Africa, had built a nest in a borrow pit the contractors had dug on site. Aware that sand martins are a protected species, we created a wide exclusion zone around the borrow pit and the birds spent a peaceful summer while we carried on with the UK Mail facility.

In September, the sand martins departed and we filled in the borrow pit. But, realising that Ryton is on the birds’ migration route, we looked for a more suitable nesting site in the local area. Fortunately, Prologis Park is close to Ryton Pools Country Park and we worked closely with the park rangers and our ecology consultants FPCR, to create a purpose-built summer habitat.
Sand martins are gregarious birds and tend to nest in large colonies in dry, sandy banks, where they build tunnels leading to individual nesting chambers. To replicate this natural habitat, Adrian Chaima, our project management intern – helped by Wayne Bridges of Whiting Landscape -researched and designed a nesting wall to stand beside one of the Ryton Pools.

Nesting wall

The nesting wall, which is 15 metres long and 2 metres high, contains around 112 nesting compartments, all of which have entrance tunnels made from clay pipes. The compartments themselves have been constructed from timber and each has a sliding plywood rear door with an inspection hatch so that the rangers can keep an eye on the nesting sand martins and carry out any necessary maintenance.
To help keep the nests safe from stoats, weasels and other predators, Adrian has raised the nesting chambers above ground level on a breeze block structure. For further protection, he specified a galvanised anti-predator sill and this has been fixed to the wall below the tunnel entrances.

For visitors to Ryton Pools who are interested in learning more about sand martins and the nesting wall, we have installed an information board on the opposite bank, so that visitors can watch the birds without disturbing them.

When the Sand Martins settled in the borrow pit at Prologis Park, it was probably the first time they had visited Ryton. But with the new habitat in place at the Country Park, we very much hope that a colony will become established and make Ryton its new summer home.

Sand Martin

Latin Name
Riparia Riparia
Swallows & Martins (Hirundinidae)
Along rivers and other water bodies throughout the UK. Also found around man-made gravel pits where artificial nesting banks are provided.
March - October
Invertebrates, taken on the wing.

Read the other articles in the latest Prologis Review, Summer 2016
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