October 24th   Leave a comment

There were at least a couple of ring ouzels with the blackbirds at Kilminning this afternoon. The hawthorns were alive with the chacking of blackbirds and then the occasional deeper more rattling chack of a ring ouzel. I had to wait a few minutes before they started to venture out in the open to grab some rowan berries and I could get a view to confirm their identity. There is still a chiff-chaff at Kilminning but no yellow-browed warblers. It seem strange after the last month of having them everywhere.

I had another small flock of whooper swans past Crail late afternoon. This time they were close in, cutting the corner over Fife Ness to pass into the Forth over Roome Bay. There were 6 birds in the flock and two of them were juveniles of this year (a bit grubbier looking than the adults – a concept well known to any parent of any species of course). Swans are unusual in birds because they migrate in family parties. The young of each year get shown the migration route so that the knowledge about stop-over sites and migration strategies gets passed on. In contrast, most young birds have to work this out for themselves guided only by a genetic direction to fly in which changes with time of year. Of course once they have done their first migration they can repeat their successful route and they can also find good wintering sites by looking for adults when they get there so it’s not all chance where they end up. But which is the better strategy: to be guided by your parents as in swans or geese or cranes, or to have a scatter gun approximate approach to finding a wintering ground? I bet you think the former because after all it takes the guess work out of it. A swan will always end up in a good place. But I think in a changing world the latter is best. At least a small migrant’s eggs are not in one basket – some of its young might get lucky and find good places. The swans will only find good places as long as they stay good. If one key site disappears then the parents will just be leading the whole family into disaster. Perhaps it’s not as bad as that. Following the parents is associated with bird species that are large so there is probably a degree of safety margin in their migrations. If a site goes wrong then there is plenty of fuel in the tank to keep going or to search for a new site. The swans this afternoon were flying steadily and purposefully, and looked like they could fly forever. I watched them until they passed the May Island and began to blend in with the sea and the sky.

Whooper swans - again past Crail today

Whooper swans – again past Crail today

Posted October 24, 2013 by wildcrail in Sightings

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