February 23rd   Leave a comment

Another gale this morning blowing in from the south. The redshanks at Roome Bay were all hunkered down in a tight group on the north side of the rocks despite it being prime feeding time. Winter is always a trade-off for birds between having to feed and exposing themselves to the wind and cold. The temperature was up to 11 degrees this morning so the redshanks were probably much more comfortable out of the wind, ticking over, rather than trying to collect energy when they would lose a good proportion of whatever they gained. And there is always the issue of sparrowhawks and peregrines. They gain the advantage in a wind because everything is moving so their approaches are disguised and any alarm calls are lost in the wind noise. So if a redshank can afford it, then it should definitely stay out of the way in a gale.

And speaking of sparrowhawks, yesterday I saw a female popping out of a garden by the harbour with a thrush or a starling, and then immediately saw a male soaring over Castle Walk. It got me thinking about how many sparrowhawks there are in Crail. Somewhere between 4 and 8 I would think, although some individuals might pop in to Crail from the surroundings only occasionally. But I really have no idea. I might count 6 sparrowhawks in a day around Crail but I can’t really tell if they are the same individuals. Without marking them and then seeing how often you resight a marked individual relative to unmarked birds, there is no way you can gain an accurate number of how many there are. It’s perhaps less of an important question, surprisingly, for the small birds that really do want to know about sparrowhawks. From the point of view of a blue tit, it really doesn’t care how many sparrowhawks there are, just whether it is likely to meet one. In our terms it is like crossing the road – we don’t know how many different cars actually use a road, we just know from experience whether it is busy or not, or is close to a concealing bend and take appropriate care. And there only has to be one sparrowhawk around to make everything potentially very dangerous so a blue tit probably doesn’t change its behaviour much if there are ten sparrowhawks or just the one.

A male Crail sparrowhawk - one's enough

A male Crail sparrowhawk – one’s enough to have to pay attention

Every evening down at the harbour at dusk quite a few rock pipits come to roost. They squeeze into the cracks of the stones that make the harbour wall. The same places where they nest in the summer. It must make a very cosy and secure place to spend the night, especially as the gales continue.

Rock pipit - always down at the harbour, feeding, breeding and even roosting

Rock pipit – always down at the harbour, feeding, breeding and even roosting

Posted February 23, 2014 by wildcrail in Sightings

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