August 12th   Leave a comment

There were a couple of bar-tailed godwits joining the sanderlings, dunlins and ringed plover on Balcomie Beach today. They were very wary unlike the other waders that have got used to the dog walkers. Bar-tailed godwits are truly exceptional migrants (and all migrants are themselves pretty exceptional) so these birds could have been fresh in from Siberia, thousands of kilometres away. They might have been looking at red-breasted geese and arctic foxes just a couple of days ago. I saw a knot passing Fife Ness later – another exceptional migrant also on its way back from the far north. Surprisingly my first for the year. They are not uncommon on the rocky shore around Crail in the winter but I missed them somehow- number 135 for the year list.

Bar-tailed godwit

Bar-tailed godwit

At sea from Fife Ness there was quite a heat haze making the gannets and gulls just blurry shapes more than a couple of kilometres out. I could make out a couple of manx shearwaters passing further out because of their very distinctive cross shape, flashing black and white as they banked over the waves but not much else. Closer in there were a lot of sandwich terns passing as well as quite a few arctic terns. Many were juveniles so at least some arctic terns, somewhere have had a reasonable breeding season. Some colonies on the west coast don’t fledge any chicks at all because of predators such as mink reaching their breeding colony. Remote places like the May Island are essential to allow them (and many other vulnerable seabirds) to nest unmolested. A group of bottle-nosed dolphins passing by out of the Forth rounded off a nice summer sea watch.

Juvenile arctic tern

Juvenile arctic tern

I have been keeping any eye on the swifts this week. They will be going any day soon and I don’t want to waste a day of appreciating them. On Tuesday I cycled back from Anstruther by a rape field that was being harvested. Downwind was a flock of about 100 swifts. They must have been feasting in the insect plume disturbed by the harvester. When swifts are really successfully feeding they change direction all the time, and this flock was a darting mass of birds going everywhere. This year seems to have been good for swifts in Crail. The flock between Crail and Anstruther will have attracted birds from all around or even might have been a flock already on migration so such gatherings don’t give a good indication of how well they are doing locally. But I think there might be double the birds this year (perhaps 60 rather than 30 in the skies above Crail in the late evening when they seem the easiest to count). I wish them well on their journey to the jungles of the Congo.

Posted August 12, 2016 by wildcrail in Sightings

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