July 9th   Leave a comment

There was a whinchat today halfway between Crail and Hammer Inn, on the now fairly overgrown footpath up from Balcomie caravan park. The last whinchat I saw was in Nigeria, last year: I see hundreds of whinchats in Africa where I study them but hardly ever see them in Scotland. They used to be a much more common bird but are now confined to the West and the uplands. It is strange because they are very generalist, needing only small insects and a perch – unimproved pasture or meadow with some small bushes and scrub does the job. That they have disappeared from lowland Scotland is probably indicative of the general reduction in the quantity and quality of insect food, as well as possibly tidier fields and earlier mowing of hay fields. But there are still many neglected field edges that should suit a whinchat – they certainly would suit a whinchat in Africa and as today a bird on passage to Africa. These edges have enough to keep a single bird that can move on when necessary but not a breeding pair and its growing brood for two months. Whinchats pass through Crail mainly in August so today’s bird was fairly early. Some Augusts, particularly on an easterly wind with rain showers, every field might have one or two: they will sit jauntily on top of the unharvested crop of wheat or rape so are easy to find. But most autumns (or springs) there are only a few that come through Crail. From Boarhills down to the mouth of the Kenly Burn seems to be the most reliable site for them then.

Whinchat in Africa – one of my photos using my phone and a telescope

Posted July 9, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

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