August 27th   Leave a comment

There are more waders about now it is the end of August. There are about 30 redshanks back in Crail including at least three of my colour-ringed birds. I haven’t ringed any new ones for three years now and they get fewer and fewer every year. One was feeding among the skerries of harbour beach this morning, Yellow Black/Green Black (that’s left leg, yellow ring above black above the knee/ right leg, green ring above black above the knee). I ringed this bird on the 21st March 2011 on Harbour Beach: it was a juvenile, so born the summer before in 2010. And here it is back in Crail for an eighth winter, feeding just 45 meters from where I caught it, as it has done every winter (although sometimes it wanders to Roome Bay for an afternoon…). It is not a big bird – with a small wing and leg length when I measured it during ringing – so probably a Scottish breeder; perhaps on Lewis or from Wester Ross, or Shetland. As I checked through the redshanks for colour-ringed birds I spotted a more elegant one – a greenshank. They are reasonably easy to identify: the clue is in the name, green legs and with a slightly uptilted bill, but otherwise much as a redshank. We get a few greenshanks through Crail every year, with most in August, on their way to pools and rivers all over Africa, although more and more spend the winter in the UK as the climate gets warmer. Other waders around the harbour were a couple of common sandpipers, curlews, oystercatchers and a turnstone.

A greenshank

It is still mostly ringed plovers on Balcomie Beach with a few dunlin and sanderling. The rocks to the north have got hundreds of terns on them now. They are a mixture of arctic, common and sandwich terns. There may be a roseate tern among them but a good view is needed and this weekend my visit was at low tide when they were a long way out. The crows feeding on the rocky shore were getting a hard time when they flew near the terns. The arctic terns, particularly, seem to be still in colony mode. But most of the time the terns were loafing – taking it easy on a still, warm August day with nothing much to do after the busy breeding season and a few weeks before migration. The same for the gulls, although for most they don’t even have to worry about an up and coming migration. The black-headed gulls are already home for the winter. Breeding black hoods gone now, no young to protect or feed and still longs days to feed in. They will be using this gentle period to moult though, where they change their flight feathers for a new set. This takes a fair bit of energy so they won’t be able to loaf all day.

Black-headed gull – note the new shorter wing feathers close to the wing tip that are growing back as it moults

Posted August 27, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

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