July 6th   Leave a comment

A spotted flycatcher - probably breeding in Cambo this year

A spotted flycatcher – probably breeding in Cambo this year

I spent most of the day guiding bird song walks at Cambo for the East Neuk Festival. A good idea in principle, and a lovely day. But July is not the time to go looking for woodland birds and definitely not on a hot, sunny day at midday. Thank goodness for the wrens that were still singing and the woodpigeons that are always singing. Everything else was well out of sight up in the canopy concentrating on feeding chicks or hiding and certainly not singing much. We are usually spoilt in cool Scotland with birds being active all day long. In the tropics it gets hot quickly and after about nine in the morning most forest birds stop singing and become much less obvious. We hardly ever get days hot enough to cause birds to “retire” early like today. And it’s worst of all immediately after birds have finished breeding. This is the time that most species moult – grow a new set of feathers – which makes them less able to fly and takes a lot of energy. So a moulting bird tends to keep its head down and not to carry out exhibitionist activities like singing. And the result is a quiet day, with one blackbird, song thrush and blackcap singing apart from the wrens and woodpigeons. I hope I haven’t put anyone off bird song today.

There were two highlights though. As I had lunch overlooking the sea I saw a cuckoo fly in from the east and continue on to the south-west. Cuckoos don’t have chicks to feed so migrate early. This will be a bird from somewhere like Sweden already on its way back to Africa. I have only seen 4 cuckoos in Crail now in ten years. There has been an 80% decline in their UK numbers over the last 20 years and they are now quite special in Fife: it’s only the migrants that we see now. The second highlight was a pair of spotted flycatchers. Another severely declining African migrant that used to breed all over Fife but that we now only see as a migrant through Crail. But probably not this pair – they looked like they are breeding here again which is great news.


Posted July 6, 2013 by wildcrail in Sightings

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