May 1st   Leave a comment

Sandwich tern

Sandwich tern

The best way to celebrate the start of May is with a swift. I had my first just outside of Crail this morning (120 for the Crail year list). Swifts are usually one of the later migrants but this one has leapfrogged the sedge warblers and whitethroats. The temperature is back to double figures so everything should now start arriving. Swifts are a bit more flight capable than most migrants and probably migrate at twice or three times the speed of something like a whitethroat.

There was a large passage of sandwich terns today – hundreds passing Crail through the morning in small groups. At Kingsbarns Beach it was a sandwich tern festival with 10 birds or so plunge diving right at the waterline. They were catching small sandeels so close in that they were just meters away from any walker passing along the edge of the sea. They are big terns, but still incredibly graceful and adept in the air. It was a real treat to be that close to them. I could understand them being so oblivious to people after spending the winter doing the same in Ghana on the busy beaches and amongst the fisherman there.

There are still a lot of kittiwakes feeding close in off Crail and Fife Ness. Most of these are young birds from last year with their characteristic “W” pattern on their wings. Kittiwakes take a couple of years to reach breeding age so it’s not unsurprising that there are a lot of birds loafing around somewhere, but usually I think they are further out in the North Sea and so much less noticeable. With the kittiwakes is the occasional fulmar, barrelling past with a lot more purpose. Fulmars, of course, take much longer to reach adulthood, maybe even a decade to get their first successful nest. Again there will be a lot of immature birds passing Crail passing time until adulthood but they are impossible to distinguish from adults. The passage of time doesn’t affect how fulmars look – 20 or 50 years old they look just the same. Perhaps it’s the high fish oil diet.



Posted May 1, 2016 by wildcrail in Sightings

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