August 24th   Leave a comment

The light easterly winds and the rain showers overnight were full of promise for a fall of migrants this weekend. Sadly I think the winds weren’t strongly enough easterly and there was no sign of the hoped for whinchats, tree pipits and flycatchers that we might expect at this time of year when the weather conditions are right. Every few years we get a great fall in the third week of August – there is still time I suppose.

The south-easterlies of yesterday did bring some seabirds in close, although the poor visibility largely counteracted the benefit of the onshore wind – large groups of manx shearwaters were passing and the occasional arctic skua. The gannets were very busy fishing and passing by Crail to and from the Bass Rock: their chicks will be getting large and at their most demanding just before they start fledging in a couple of weeks.

This summer seems to have been a good one for the land birds. Denburn was full of young thrushes today. And I have never seen so many swallows around Crail and the adjacent fields. The warm but not too dry weather seems to have really boosted insect numbers this year which will have made things easier for raising chicks.

The highlight today was a female merlin hunting along the low tide line from Saucehope to the harbour causing panic in the turnstones and redshanks. August is the best time to see merlins in Crail and any small bird of prey you see, even in gardens, at this time of year is very likely to be a merlin. It’s hard to define what makes a merlin distinctive but I think the best way to identify them is by their compact dark falcon shape which also seems a bit like a sparrowhawk (a longer tail and shorter wings than a peregrine creates this impression). If you see a sparrowhawk that then on closer look turns out to be a falcon then you are probably looking at a merlin.

A gannet working hard to fledge its chick

A gannet working hard to fledge its chick

Posted August 24, 2013 by wildcrail in Sightings

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