Europe and Central Asia

Partnership with HeidelbergCement - Spring Alive





Spring Alive



In partnership with BirdLife International, HeidelbergCement is sponsoring the 2019 season of the Spring Alive project: started in 2006, Spring Alive brings together children, their teachers and families to record their first sightings of easily-recognized migratory birds. By posting their sightings on the Spring Alive website, children from Europe, Central Asia and Africa create a real-time map of the incredible journeys these birds take every year. Creating awareness about their importance and the need to protect these birds and their habitats is what the Spring Alive project aims to achieve.

Spring Alive has five flagship migratory bird species, (Barn Swallow, White Stork, Common Cuckoo, Common Swift, European Bee-eater)  which form the focus of their migratory monitoring. The arrival of these species in Europe having travelled from Africa confirms that spring is here and the European winter is over. HeidelbergCement’s involvement in Spring Alive has introduced a sixth migratory bird to the project: The Sand martin, a quarry flagship species and frequent visitor in many of the sites, will be included as one of the “birds to look out for”.

With 54 countries, hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren participating, and millions receiving the message though digital media, the Spring Alive project has a wide audience, and fits in perfectly with HeidelbergCement’s sustainability strategy to create awareness about biodiversity. During the 2019 season, some of HeidelbergCement’s quarry sites across parts of Africa and Europe will be participating in the project in collaboration with the local BirdLife Partners.


Sand martins are the smallest European hirundines (martins and swallows), with dark brown upper parts and dark under wings contrasting with otherwise pale under parts divided by a distinctive dark chest bar. Agile fliers, feeding mainly over water, they will perch on overhead wires or branches. They are gregarious in the breeding season and winter. During the past 50 years the European population has crashed on two occasions as a result of drought in the birds’ African wintering grounds. There are eight subspecies within this species.

Population size: 10.000.000-500.000.000 (the European population size: 7.280.000-16.000.000) mature individuals
Population trend: decreasing
Red List Category: Least Concern
What do they eat?
Invertebrates, taken on the wing.
Small insects, mostly gnats and other flies, normally over water, occasionally terrestrial or aquatic insects or insects’ larvae
Length: 12cm
Wingspan: 26-29cm
Weight: 13-14g
Identifying features:
Feather colour: Brown, Cream/buff, White
Leg colour: Brown
Beak: Black, Short, Thin

Natural habitats: Farmland Wetland; open spaces near larger bodies of water, sandy riverbanks, cliffs, gravel pits, sand pits
Sand martins are very gregarious and nest in colonies, which may contain more than 100 pairs. They excavate tunnels in sandy, dry vertical banks in sand pits and gravel pits, railway cuttings, riverbanks and sea-cliffs, and exceptionally in drainpipes in walls, and holes in brickwork. 
Both males and females make a horizontal tunnel 45-90 cm long with a chamber at the end. Suitable sites may be used for years. New tunnels will be dug as the cliff collapses, or as old holes become too big (when they may be taken over by sparrows or starlings).
Fledging chicks
The white eggs, usually four or five, sometimes three to seven, are generally laid in late May or early June in a nest of feathers, grass and leaves. Incubation is by both parents once the last egg is laid, and lasts for about 14 days. All eggs hatch at the same time.
The young are helpless and remain in the nest. They are bed by both parents and fledge when 19-24 days old. After fledging, they are dependent on the parents for about one week. Usually two broods are raised each summer.