May 20th   Leave a comment

Spotted flycatcher

The weekend was a quiet one for this time of year. There was only a little migration. A few waders at Fife Ness, Arctic terns still passing steadily out at sea, a male wheatear on a wire during my Sunday morning corn bunting circuit and a final tiny surge late on Sunday afternoon with a spotted flycatcher and a lesser whitethroat at Kilminning. I was cooking supper for my family but felt compelled to go and twitch the last two birds just because it had been so quiet. And if you ignore something like a lesser whitethroat then it will certainly be the last one that turns up in the year. The spotted flycatcher was dashing around the treetops so was easy to find, but the lesser whitethroat was silent or had moved on. I couldn’t find it in the twenty minutes I had before I had to dash back to my cooking. Still a spotted flycatcher is always a nice bird and they have been one of my favourites since I started birding in 1979. They were a fairly common garden bird then (in large, well treed suburban gardens) and they were always entertaining as they lined up on fence wires or washing lines to flycatch. The closest place they breed to Crail is Cambo and at Boarhills along the burns, but not every year. They are still fairly common on the west coast and every self-respecting midge-infested holiday rental has its pair of spotted flycatchers visiting the back garden.

Although it is a late season, there are plenty of birds fledging chicks now, or just about to. The house and tree sparrows in my garden are feeding quite large chicks now, and the starlings are getting very agitated about crows which indicates that their chicks are about to fledge. The adult starlings often go down to the beach to forage on seaweed flies, where they can collect beakfuls of food very easily. Of course, when the young fledge they head down to the beach as soon as they can fly well to get this easy meal directly. The “as soon as they can fly well” is important. There is no cover down on the shore if a sparrowhawk turns up, and the sparrowhawks themselves will soon have lots of hungry chicks to feed.

Starling at Balcomie collecting seaweed flies for its chicks

Now is a good time to track down a sedge warbler. These incredibly vigorous singers are most obvious at the moment, churring, reeling and chacking continuously from weedy bramble patches and ditches around Crail. Occasionally they will launch themselves up into a song flight, making themselves easily visible before descending back into cover. They also sometimes sing perched out in the open and show their big white eye stripe contrasting with a dark crown and face that makes them more distinctive than your average warbler. The rough ground above the cliffs of Roome Bay just before Saucehope Caravan Park is perhaps the easiest place in Crail to see sedge warblers. A pair was scrapping with a pair of common whitethroats yesterday which made them completely oblivious to their normal rules of skulking.

Sedge warbler – listen out for the continuous churring, buzzing, rattling and chacking song from a weedy patch

Posted May 20, 2018 by wildcrail in Sightings

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