August 3rd   Leave a comment

At this time of year I start to look at the swifts again. Each evening brings closer the time when they will no longer be here and the summer will really start to slide towards its end. They are screaming more and getting restless although some of the birds are laying the foundations for their return next year. Every so often you see a swift with a very large white throat. If you have a close look through binoculars you often see these birds are carrying a white feather. They don’t sing and have no bright plumage, but they do have a white throat. I think this is an attractive feature for another swift and the juvenile swifts – by juveniles, I mean 3 or 4 years old and not breeding yet – accentuate it by holding a white feather. Maybe they also demonstrate their flying and food catching ability by grabbing a feather from the air, or their ability to build the shoddy nests that they do build (more of a pile of feathers on a flat surface). But it is a bit of a coincidence that it always seems to be a bright white feather that they are carrying. I think this is swift make up.

Another group of migrants that are getting restless are the arctic terns. They at least will be here for another month. There is a flock of about 100 – 200 out on the rocks just north of Balcomie Beach. On the high tide they are only a few tens of meters out from the coastal path and so you can get a good view. They are astonishingly beautiful and graceful birds, although not in any way delicate. They are still capable of attacking you if you approach too closely to one of their juveniles. There are quite a few juveniles among the flock indicating a reasonable breeding season. They will all head off for Antarctica soon, some of the adults for the 20th or 30th time, the juveniles following the adults on their long journey south. Most juveniles stay in the southern oceans for their first summer and then come back north for their second summer (i.e. two years from now for the young of this year) to breed for the first time.

The local arctic tern flock

Posted August 3, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

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