Sand Martins divert the diggers at Lafarge quarry

Lafarge Tarmac's Dunbar Cement plant has specially diverted its quarrying operations to protect around 22 pairs of Sand Martin that visit the area every year
Lafarge Tarmac's Dunbar Cement plant has specially diverted its quarrying operations to protect around 22 pairs of Sand Martin that visit the area every year

Lafarge Tarmac’s Dunbar Cement plant has specially diverted its quarrying operations to protect some summer visitors to the site.

Around 22 pairs of sand martins that visit the area every year have kept their homes, thanks to a detour in quarrying.

Sand martins, close relatives of the swallow, nest in burrows that they excavate in sand banks, and feed on insects caught on the wing. Each pair typically rears four or five chicks. They spend the winter in southern Africa and return to the UK in early spring to nest.

Quarry manager Dave Hutcombe said: “The birds arrive in May every year and set up nests in sand banks around the site. One particular site was destined to be quarried just before the birds arrived back but we changed our plans to work around them and effectively leave a ‘sand martin island’, which looks a bit like a pyramid!

“We have around 100 pairs in total at present, nesting around the edges in areas which won’t be disturbed for several years. We have plans to create a special sand martin bank when the current visitors have left in August. This means that the birds can nest safely and undisturbed in one part of the quarry, while our operations can continue elsewhere on the site.”

Conservation in the area is supported by RSPB Scotland, which entered into a management agreement with Lafarge Tarmac earlier this year to assess the potential for restoring and developing the North West quarry into a nature reserve with visitor facilities for wildlife viewing.