Week ending March 22nd   Leave a comment

I have been up to the crossroads two kilometres northwest of Crail to have a look at the pool which has re-emerged in the field between Leys Farm and Lochton. In the rainy spring and summer of a couple of years ago there were quite a few pools in the fields that attracted a lot of interesting migrant waders. Sadly they were all ruthlessly filled in and last year I had to make do with only a single green sandpiper in just about the only remaining puddle by Kenly. But time and some recent heavy rain has begun to undo the “improvements” and we now have three pools with quite good potential close to Crail. As long as we have a rainy spring and the farmers are distracted we may get lucky with birds again this spring.

On Wednesday there was a pair of ringed plovers on the main pool. They breed on the coast and also inland in highland marshes. At this time of year migrants can stop anywhere and I suspect these two were on their way much further north rather a local pair having a break from the beach. Little ringed plovers are also likely to turn up on passage. They winter beside little pools all over Africa and migrate up to breed all over Europe beside little pools. I have only see one little ringed plover close to Crail and they need a careful look to be sure they are little ringed plovers rather than ordinary ringed plovers. The nicest way to identify them is by call – both have lovely soft two note whistles but little ringed plovers slur downwards and ringed plovers upwards.

Close by the pool was a flock of about twenty lapwing. One of them was displaying away, tumbling and making their distinctive dissonant buzzing call, flashing black and white as it swooped very low over the rest of the flock. Lapwings are very gregarious but in spring they have to form pairs and become territorial, just like many other species that want to breed successfully. It must create a bit of a conflict when a flock of migrant lapwings plonks down in the field you have decided is your territory. I should think it was the resident bird that was displaying and will probably breed in the field by the pool – they can manage even if the pool isn’t there, as they did last year – but they prefer a bit of water which provides small insects allowing their chicks to grow fast.  Lapwings can also breed in small loose colonies so perhaps the resident was trying to attract rather than deter the rest of the lapwings to join it. A bigger colony has more individuals to chase off crows.

Lapwings

Lapwings

As I scanned the lapwing flock I noticed a golden plover, then another and then a whole flock. Their camouflage had done the trick again. I wonder how many golden plovers I overlook: it often seems that I notice them only because of the company they keep. A few birds were nicely gold spangled and with black bellies in anticipation of breeding in the highlands in six weeks time.

Another camouflaged golden plover - very striking but only when you notice them

Another well camouflaged golden plover – very striking but only when you notice them

Jackdaws - they definitely have fun

Jackdaws – they definitely have fun

The jackdaws have been enjoying the spring sunshine this week. Flocks have been soaring around Crail, tumbling and chasing and just generally showing off to each other. If you wonder if animals have a sense of fun and play then watch jackdaws in the spring. I am sure there are all sorts of adaptive reasons why the jackdaws might show off to each other – impressing a mate or establishing hierarchies – but the same thing can be said about a rugby match. It doesn’t mean that the participants might not also get pleasure from it and revel in it. Certainly if I could fly like a jackdaw I would be tempted to show off.

I have spent the weekend down in Cornwall and as expected the spring is 4 weeks or so in advance down here. I was on the lizard on Saturday and a tiny bird flew in from the sea, almost tumbling down into the first bush it found on the cliff. A chiff-chaff, probably making its first landfall since Spain, back for the summer and my first summer migrant for the year. I heard another singing along the coast path but no other migrants: spring is not early this year, even down in Cornwall. We should expect a chiff-chaff in Crail in a week or so heralding the real start off spring for me.

A newly arrived March chiff-chaff

A newly arrived March chiff-chaff

Posted March 22, 2015 by wildcrail in Sightings

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