February 19th   2 comments

Song thrush - singing a lot at dawn at the moment

We have had a mixed week of temperatures. Last night went below freezing and today was below five degrees all day. On Wednesday and Thursday it was up to 12 degrees and there was a bat around my garden at dusk. Mid-week you would have been sure that spring was just around the corner, and on Sunday sure it wasn’t. The birds were apparently convinced by the warmer temperatures though, with blackbirds, song thrushes, robins, chaffinches and blue tits now all singing at dawn in my garden. But dawn is actually the real cue, rather than simply temperature. Change in day length is hard-wired into most birds to allow them to get ready to breed when the temperatures reliably get high enough. So even on a very cold day like this morning the birds were still singing because they know that spring is round the corner and that territories have to be maintained. As the days lengthen the birds also have more time to feed so they can afford to use more time and energy singing. Although they will have stopped singing sooner this morning, than on Wednesday.

We are gaining 4 minutes of daylight every day at the moment, with it being noticeably lighter later every day. Because the world wobbles we have little change in day length at the points when the earth reaches the top or bottom of its wobble and starts tilting in the opposite direction (the winter and summer solstice). But as we approach the spring equinox, in a month’s time, the earth is changing its angle to the sun fastest and so we have the most rapid increases in day length. The same applies in the autumn, although in reverse, when the dark winter nights suddenly seem to rush in. The change in day length in the spring doesn’t quite affect us in the same way as it does birds but I think it certainly cheers most people up.

Living in a seasonal and variable climate is one of the great joys of Crail. It is terribly dull at the equator with no change in the day length, no long summer nights or very short winter days, or best of all the feeling of a constantly changing environment. This week with the obviously lengthening evenings and the sharp contrasts between winter and spring temperatures has been a daily celebration of our seasonal change.

The sea today from Harbour Beach was lively this afternoon. I counted 20 or so red-throated divers, lots of gannets and constantly passing razorbills. Razorbills seem to be the earliest auk to get ready to breed with many now in summer plumage and in obvious pairs. The puffins are still far out in the North Sea and I don’t expect to see one of another month or two.

Razorbill in spring breeding plumage


Posted February 19, 2012 by wildcrail in Sightings

2 responses to “February 19th

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  1. Will,
    I’d just like to say how great you’re blog is. I am a regular reader, and wish there were more blogs like this.
    I’d also like to ask if there are any Kestrel “hot-spots” around the Crail area, as I’m currently making raptor nest boxes.
    P.s I live in the East Neuk area and have recently got these results on a Motion detect camera; thought you might want to see it!;

  2. Dear Harry

    Thanks for the comments. The footage from your motion detecting camera is really good. The technology has become much cheaper and user friendly and so much more useful now. I should think you could even do some individual identification on the deer to work out how many different individuals we have in the area with some more video samples from around Crail.

    Kestrel hot spots. A pair nest up at Sypsies in one of the abandoned buildings up there; down beyond West Braes on the coast path towards Anstruther somewhere; probably around Balcomie or Craighead farm or Fife Ness coastguard. But probably not more than 2-3 pairs in the immediate Crail area. Nest boxes would help definitely.

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