May 30th   1 comment

Another perfectly timed text at 4:30 this afternoon started Friday evening perfectly. A male red-backed shrike reported from the road half-way between Crail and Balcomie that runs up to the north part of the airfield and eventually Wormiston. It was a beautiful evening and the shrike positively glowed as it caught insects tucked in the rank vegetation alongside the wall along the main road. Yesterday’s disappointment at missing the female red-backed shrike totally washed away. They are a top bird and sadly missing as a breeder from the UK apart from a couple of pairs recolonizing Dartmoor. One hundred years ago they were a fairly common bird in Britain. They are massive long distance migrants with a loop migration taking them through the middle of Africa down to Angola for a spell at the start of the winter and then East Africa for the rest, then through Saudia Arabia and back into Western Europe. 22,000 kilometers in total, with the detour through the Middle East adding a quarter to the distance. They do this probably to take advantage of the tail winds that favour that route. It shows how important the wind is to small long distance migrants and why easterly winds result in us getting rare birds in.

A birder also at the shrike mentioned that he had just seen a black redstart at the house being built up at Craighead and between Crail and Balcomie golf courses. The evening was getting even better. Another annual Crail rarity like the shrike and another handsome bird to see glowing black and red in the evening light. It took a few minutes to find but like the shrike it was a hungry migrant so not staying still for long. It soon attracted attention to itself amongst the scaffolding, fences and debris of the building site. This is what black redstarts like. Bare, rocky and barren areas. Famously they colonised Britain as a breeder in the bomb sites of London after the war and every nuclear power station has a pair or two. We had a long stayer in Roome Bay in January 2011, again enjoying the bare rocks but in a slightly more scenic environment than today’s bird.

Male black redstart - this is the Roome Bay bird from 2011 - much like the bird this evening, but easier for John to photograph

Male black redstart – this is the Roome Bay bird from 2011 – much like the bird this evening, but easier for John to photograph

Posted May 30, 2014 by wildcrail in Sightings

One response to “May 30th

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  1. Glad others got to see the Red Backed Shrike, Will. Cracking bird that made what had been a relatively quiet day for me (other highlights were Grey Partridge, Tawny Owl, Corn Bunting and 2 Red Throated Divers). Spotted as I was heading back into Crail to catch my bus.

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