Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dry Weather Puts Some Wildlife in Jeopardy

Photo by Marlin Harms via Flickr CC via TreeHugger

In the United Kingdom, everyone became so used to others complaining about swallows building their mud nests under eaves and along fascia boards that a request for homeowners to leave dishes of mud out for swallows comes as quite a surprise to many. It turns out that unusually dry weather in the UK has left the migratory birds with too little mud to create their nests which will be home to two or three broods during the season.

According to the Telegraph, "The driest April on record [in the UK] has left swallows and house martins, species that typically build ornate nests, without the wet mud needed to construct their homes."

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is calling for the public to leave dishes of mud out for the birds so that they have the materials necessary to repair old nests or build new ones for the breeding season.

This is probably the first time Britons have ever heard of a mud shortage; and, it could be the first time that a call for nature lovers to leave mud on porches, balconies, or gardens has gone out to the general public. But without the right materials, swallows and martins will have a far harder time with a successful breeding season.

Unfortunately, the dry weather is not just affecting Great Britain nor are birds the only species that require access to mud to reproduce. Female Mason bees, one of the last surviving winged pollinators, require mud to separate the cells in her nest from one another. If there is no mud available, the female will not lay her eggs.

Mason bee cocoon cells inside nest. The dark material surrounding the cocoon is mud. Without mud, mason bees can not make their nests. Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

RSPB states, "House martin nests also have a tendency to fall with the young still inside. The forecasted dry spell is likely to see this happening frequently as the mud dries out, reducing the nests grip on the wall. A substitute nest may encourage the parents to continue to feed them."

Worldwide we can all help. Everyone who is living somewhere that is experiencing drier than normal weather can put out a dish of mud on their porches or on their balconies. For those lucky enough to have a yard, a dish can be put out in the garden or a small hole dug that is kept nice and cool and muddy. Of course, whatever method is chosen to provide mud must be checked daily and additional water added as necessary.

So go on...get muddy!

Via TreeHugger

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