Work is nearing completion on a major new housing complex in Nidderdale, offering accommodation for up to 100 families.
However, this isn’t a sprawling estate or high-rise block but a purpose-built nesting bank for the threatened Sand Martin, the smallest bird of the swallow family which comes to breed in Britain each summer.
The nesting wall is at the north end of Yorkshire Water’s Gouthwaite Reservoir in the heart of Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is built into the natural bank to give the birds a safe nesting area near to their favourite food - insects flying over water.
Sand martins normally nest in soft banks where they excavate nesting chambers. But soft banks have become harder to find and often collapse, leaving them short of their natural homes.
The new bank is built as a wall of solid blocks backfilled with sand so that the nests will not collapse and are protected against predators.
Designed to fit the landscape, the nesting bank follows the contours of the reservoir and is finished to blend with the beautiful Upper Nidderdale.
Initiated by Nidderdale Birdwatchers, a local voluntary group, the project has involved a partnership of Yorkshire Water and Nidderdale AONB and forms part of the Upper Nidderdale Landscape Partnership scheme.
The funding comes from Yorventure (through funds generated by Yorwaste Ltd), the Heritage Lottery Fund and by money raised by Nidderdale Birdwatchers.
The project has the support of Natural England, Gouthwaite Management Board and local Councils. Gouthwaite Reservoir is an important habitat for breeding birds in the summer and for wildfowl in the winter. It is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Ros Wade, Chair of Nidderdale Birdwatchers, said: “We work to maintain the diversity of bird life in Nidderdale. Like many birds, Sand Martins numbers are in decline.
“We wanted to encourage them to return to breed in Nidderdale so that we can help the species survive and so that local people have the opportunity to see these delightful birds.”
Yorkshire Water was supportive of the project.
Iain Mann, Landscape Partnership Scheme Manager at Nidderdale AONB, said “The reservoirs that supply Yorkshire’s human population are also important feeding grounds and migration landmarks for an array of birds.
“We hope that, as a result of this project, some of the thousands of sand martins that pass Gouthwaite annually will now also stop off to nest.”