August 9th   Leave a comment

One of the summer plumage knots on Balcomie Beach this week - this may even be the unlucky one I found killed by a peregrine this morning

One of the summer plumage knots on Balcomie Beach this week – this may even be the unlucky one I found killed by a peregrine this morning

Every Sunday morning, inevitably I almost end up on Balcomie Beach and Fife Ness. It’s an easy place to visit, there are always good birds there and best of all there is a sense of continuity in going to the same place repeatedly through the seasons. Like time lapse photography every added snapshot adds value: the changes each week make it really interesting. This morning there seemed to be waders everywhere with the autumn migration starting. 25 dunlin, the same number of sanderlings, ringed plover, turnstones, redshank and curlew, even a couple of knot roosting with the oystercatchers at high tide. The knot were still in summer plumage, showing bright brick red underparts and mottled backs. I also found the wing and some body feathers of one on the edge of the golf course. There were at least three earlier in the week… but one met a peregrine. Birds killed by peregrines are distinct from those killed by sparrowhawks because peregrines only pluck the inner wing feathers and so leave half the wing intact. Sparrowhawks are more thorough and pluck all the wing feathers off. They tend to eat prey in the cover of vegetation, so a kill out in the open is much more likely to be a peregrine. Falcons and hawks are more or less all an adult knot has to worry about. Their main defence is to migrate to breed and winter where such predators are fewer and to congregate in huge flocks where their risk of being a victim is massively diluted. Small groups on migration, in unfamiliar territory, are very vulnerable, however. The dead knot I found was in Svalbard or Siberia a couple of weeks ago, perhaps on route to Mauritania for the winter. It may have made the journey 20 times before and just got unlucky this time.

Young dunlin also on Balcomie Beach at the moment

Young dunlin also on Balcomie Beach at the moment

The swifts were very noisy last night, gathering in a big flock at dusk over Crail. They will be on their way back to Africa any day now. It’s hard to tell but I also think a lot of the swallows are heading south just now. Many more of the swallows I saw this weekend seemed to be heading west (and so eventually south) along the coast rather than the other way. They will still be with us until October although this is mostly because of migrants passing through continuously rather than our local birds staying much longer. The swifts and swallows starting to leave always makes me feel sad for the summer passing but they signal the beginning of the most three exciting months bird-wise in Crail.

Posted August 9, 2015 by wildcrail in Sightings

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