Week ending March 8th   Leave a comment

The weather is warming up and the song thrush song is now loud and insistent every morning. I even saw a toad crossing the road on Thursday night, taking advantage of the sudden hike in temperature that day of pretty much 10 degrees, to get on its way to its pond. The buzzards are spending a lot of time soaring about close to their nests and gently escorting each other, either as pairs, or while showing a neighbour off the premises. It really does feel that this long, dark winter is finally moving on too. Not a moment too soon.

A buzzard checking out an intruder near its nest

A buzzard checking out an intruder near its nest

A highlight this week was having my morning walk down Marketgate to pick up my lift to work punctuated by a peregrine blasting down from above to scatter the pigeons above The Old House. A brief twisting chase followed with the pigeon banking away easily. The pigeon had barely escaped before the peregrine caught the gale and had almost teleported back up hundred meters to resume its flight over Crail. If at first you don’t succeed…is the peregrine motto. Just keep on moving and another opportunity will soon be along.

The sparrowhawk attacking

The sparrowhawk attacking

The sparrowhawks have also been busy along the shore this week. John was lucky enough to watch a sparrowhawk catch one of the redshank – although not one of my ringed ones this time. As with most predation events that you witness, John was watching the prey – some shorebirds he was trying to photograph – and just got lucky. It all happens too fast and unpredictably to ever try to follow the predator. Redshanks are the perfect ready meal for a female sparrowhawk and one will keep a sparrowhawk fed for about a day during the winter. Sparrowhawks are creatures of habit and when they get successful they will come back again the following day. Redshanks are never so much at risk as when a sparrowhawk has got lucky the day before. For this reason it makes sense for redshanks to make loud and obvious alarm calls when they see a sparrowhawk even if it draws attention to themselves. The slightly increased risk of being targeted or losing focus during escape is probably worth the benefit of making the sparrowhawk look elsewhere for food in the future.

The same sparrowhawk eating the redshank it has just caught

The same sparrowhawk eating the redshank it has just caught

Now is the best time of year to see goldeneyes, either at Roome Bay or out at Balcomie and Fife Ness. They seem to gradually accumulate during the winter with a peak in March before leaving in April. Our birds will be breeding either in Scotland or Scandinavia, probably both, with a Norwegian bird spending the winter side by side with a Speyside bird. We know a lot more about duck movements than most other bird species because they are shot and wildfowlers are good about reporting rings – although some species are not on the main quarry list any more, goldeneye still are. I like watching goldeneyes wherever I see them on the sea because they are so at home even in the roughest surf. Completely unsinkable, waterproof and apparently oblivious to the cold. I expect on a stormy day it must be a relief to dive under the water and leave the wind and chaos above.

Male goldeneye

Male goldeneye

Posted March 8, 2015 by wildcrail in Sightings

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