Wild Time


Feel the beat of spring

Be dazzled by bluebells

Harken to a bittern's boom

Seek a swooping sand martin

Pen poetry among daffodils

Sway with dancing grebes

Get sent packing by a grouse

Take a ringside seat

Track down a tiger

Watch a rare sky dance

Chatter with a natterjack

Enjoy the great rush north

Look up in awe

Shine a light on newts

Eavesdrop on a nightingale

Go spotting early orchids

Follow a sat-tagged osprey

Gape at hunting hobbies

Nurse a passion for purple

Scour riverbanks for Ratty

Tip-toe among fritillaries



Hail the success of avocets

Go batty as night falls

Bewitched by a buttercup

Play the summertime blues

Thrill to damsels and dragonflies

Go after Dartford warbler

Make a splash with gannets

Stake out a badger sett

Hurrah for the king

Rejoice in Manxie's chorus

Delight in a glow worm

Fall for THE fastest bird

Be spellbound by orchids

Journey to a seabird city

Exalt at a skylark's song

Party with the puffins

Lounge with a lizard

Haunt a churring nightjar

Head seawards on safari

Discover the rare spoonbill

Join the toadlet exodus

Spot our largest butterfly

Wear a hat for terns

Hunt woodland beauties



Admire our eager beavers

Marvel at migration

Forage for Autumn's bounty

Go nuts over squirrel nutkin

Ramble through purple

Gaze in awe at reds' rut

Wander in the wild wood

Cheer on the salmon run

Try a wild goose chase

Foray for fungi



Pay homage to the Russians

Go on a winter ghost hunt

Wonder at wintering waders

Fall in love with a seal pup

Hear Britain's tallest bird

Revel in roosting wagtails

Kiss beneath mistletoe

'Ooh' & 'aah' at murmurations

Lie in wait for an otter

Rock 'n' roll with geology

Wrap up for a raptor roost

Seek a swooping sand martin

Image © Barry Dean

Watch out for one of the earliest signs of spring.

Look for them around gravel pits, reservoirs and large rivers

The delicate sand martin is one of the first summer migrants to return to our shores.  Having spent the winter in the Sahel region, just south of the Sahara, these tiny fliers head north across the desert to arrive back with us by early March.  The sight of a sand martin flying low over the water of a gravel pit or river and the sound of their buzzing calls is one of the first signs of the spring for many of us.

Unlike their house martin and swallow cousins, sand martins nest in burrows which they excavate in sandy banks and cliffs, forming dense colonies, usually by own water.  Throughout the spring, these colonies will be abuzz with the comings and goings of sand martins as they raise their young, feeding them on tiny flying insects such as gnats and mosquitoes which the adults catch on the wing, hawking back and forth over the water.

By the end of the summer, the young birds have all fledged and the sand martins gather together with other swallows and martins, ready to make the great journey back south again for the winter.

How to do it

Sand martins are easily recognised by the combination of pale brown upperparts with white underparts and an obvious brown chest band. House martins and swallows are both glossy blue-black above and don’t have the chest band.  

If you can’t get to the special places listed below… Sand martins are common birds throughout the country.  Look for them around gravel pits, reservoirs and large rivers.

Special spots

Several Wildlife Trusts have built artificial nesting cliffs on their reserves to encourage sand martins to nest.  The excavated sand mountain at Wood Lane, Shropshire is a fantastic nesting place for sand martins, with up to 500 pairs nesting each year.

Cambridgeshire, Grafham Water 

Denbighshire, Gors Maen Llwyd (Llyn Brenig)

Kent, Reculver Country Park 

Lincolnshire, Deeping Lakes 

Lincolnshire, Far Ings 

Lincolnshire, Whisby Nature Park 

Nottinghamshire, Attenborough 

Rutland, Rutland Water Egleton Reserve.


Sand martin bank at Wood Lane © Shropshire Wildlife Trust