September 8th   Leave a comment

I found some newly fledged stonechats at the Cambo end of Kingsbarn’s beach today. This is my first breeding record near Crail for a couple of years. The two really cold winters prior to last winter removed this cold sensitive species from the area and they have been slow to return. It’s nice to see them back. We have a few species that are hit badly by very hard winters – wrens, goldcrests, long-tailed tits and of course stonechats. These have all been much scarcer, apart from the wrens, in the last year. I think our wrens escaped the worst of the weather around Crail because a lot of them move down onto the beaches when it is frozen and forage amongst the wrack on the unfrozen tideline. The same should be true for stonechats – I often see them foraging very close to the beach, but for some reason they are the first species to disappear. Perhaps the answer to this is their small population size. Even after a run of good summers the local population is only in the tens where the wren population will be in the thousands. If you remove 90% of the population in a cold winter then you will still have a lot of wrens left whereas there may only be two or three stonechats, and such a small number might easily die over the winter because of bad luck, due to any number of other reasons. It’s a general rule of biology: small populations are much more prone to extinction. It doesn’t matter too much as long as populations survive somewhere and these are good at recolonizing. This is the case with stonechats.

There are some noisy tawny owls in the woods at Cambo. I heard young of this year making their distinctive “Kee-wick” calls through the night, starting a couple of hours after sunset. Tawny owls really are nocturnal. I have never seen a tawny owl flying in daylight except when I have disturbed on from its roost, and even this is very hard to do. They would rather sit and rely on their camouflage than fly away in daylight.

Posted September 9, 2012 by wildcrail in Sightings

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