2024: Sand Martin mobiles

Over the past couple of springs and summers I have spent a lot of time watching the tiny sand martins which travel the long journey from Africa to nest in the banks of the River Wharfe near where we live. Sand martins (taxonomic name Riparia riparia) are the smallest European members of the swallow family and the first to arrive in the spring. They are sociable, nest together and seem to chatter as they fly, a seemingly ceaseless flight which appears to be at once both random and purposeful. This video is from our stretch of the river, with Beamsley our dog equally mesmerised.




Part of the compulsion to watch them comes from the sense that they will soon be gone on their long journey back to Africa in the autumn. 

A neighbour, Mark Overfield (@ilkleywildlife), who takes beautiful images of wildlife around Ilkley, shared some photos of the local sand martins mid-flight. 


Using shapes based on the feathers of the sand martin, we have made a small series of mobiles in response to the sense of time which these birds evoke. The awareness of their brief presence at the river and the anticipation of their departure contrasts with their seemingly never-ending, flickering, flight.



Images of the mobiles by David Lindsay