May 29th   Leave a comment

Another very windy day with very strong gusts during the afternoon. It was very blowy at Cambo, particularly in the tall sycamores by the beach. They have already taken a battering earlier in the week but more leaves and branches were being blown into the sea today. The sycamore leaves were incongruously blowing past the gannets and terns that were close in to get a small bit of shelter from the westerly wind. There were also about 20 sand martins down at the burn mouth feeding on the seaweed flies. They were coming from the colony half way between Cambo and Balcomie that is in one of the sandy banks behind the beach. This year it seems much larger, with 20 or so holes and many more sand martins to be seen flying around them in the distance from Cambo.

Just fledged starling - looking to get fed but also on the menu for the local crows

A lot of the starlings have just fledged in Crail. The brown youngsters are still hiding in trees and bushes but have left their holes in the roof tops. This makes them much easier prey for the carrion crows who are gradually picking them off now they are in the relative open. The adult starlings all make a large group and screech when a crow gets close to the tree hiding the fledglings but they can do little else. Inevitably a youngster gets grabbed. But because so many pairs have fledged more or less synchronously most of the young starlings will not get taken. Over the next few days they will get sufficiently good at flying that the crows will become no threat at all. For starlings, and a lot of other species, this synchronised fledging seems very important. Even if predators can make an easy kill, they can only eat a certain amount and so most of the prey will survive. A few predators specialise in storing prey so can get round this predator swamping (humans being the obvious example, arctic foxes another, which have natural deep freezes and even crows on occasions). But even so, flooding the market and safety in numbers is always a good strategy. Another great example of this just at the moment is the eiders. They form crèches where a group of females will pool all their ducklings together. I saw my first out at Cambo today. Two females with 14 ducklings between them feeding on the seaweed flies blown out into the shallows.

Eider creche

Posted May 29, 2011 by wildcrail in Sightings

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