Week ending August 14th   Leave a comment

Arctic skua chasing a sandwich tern

On Monday there were many common, arctic and sandwich terns off Fife Ness. Further out were also hundreds of kittiwakes. They were feeding in dense flocks just above the water. Every so often a flock would suddenly bunch together even more and fly rapidly straight up. There would then also be a black shape among the white gulls indicating an arctic skua had started chasing one of the kittiwakes causing the flock to panic. The skuas sit on the water close by the feeding flocks and then launch an attack every few minutes. The chases aren’t very long because the chosen kittiwake soon regurgitates its fish to make the skua leave it alone. The skua then catches the fish before gliding down to the water again. The kittiwakes come down shortly after and resume feeding. The kittiwakes are often feeding so far out that it is only the skua chases that make them noticeable. The arctic skuas come in closer when they chase the sandwich terns that are still feeding their noisy young. Then you can appreciate why the victims drop their fish so quickly. There were several great skuas passing but I didn’t see them chase anything. It’s very impressive when they start harassing a gannet. Gannets may be huge but so are great skuas.

Migrant waders are increasing. Knots are now fairly common passing at Fife Ness. There was another ruff down at the shore by the pig farm on Tuesday and a couple of common sandpipers between Crail and Caiplie.

Migrant knots - adults are still pinky red and the whitish ones are juveniles

I saw my first Crail stonechat in nearly two years close to Caiplie Caves on Tuesday. The last two years’ hard winters have more or less wiped them out. This stonechat was a bird born this year. It was moulting into what will be its handsome adult plumage. It must be a dispersing bird looking for a vacant area to colonise. Well it has found one – there is room for several pairs between Anstruther and Fife Ness; I am really pleased to have at least one back.

Posted August 15, 2011 by wildcrail in Sightings

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