August 26th   Leave a comment

It’s late August business as usual out at Balcomie and Fife Ness. Yesterday there were a handful of juvenile northern wheatears on the rocks of the beach, with some in the farmland at Wormiston, and a whimbrel to show that autumn passage is underway. A sea watch at Fife Ness this morning turned up 21 manx shearwaters, 2 arctic skuas and a great skua in an hour, with the usual thousands of gannets, and a lot of fulmars and sandwich terns passing; only a handful of arctic terns and a single common tern. The highlight was a knot on the rocks in front of the hide – a juvenile, fresh from the Arctic. It was probably hanging out with Arctic foxes and musk ox last week.

Juvenile knot

Yesterday the best bird of the day was a merlin hunting along the shore at Kilminning while I was looking for but not finding a whinchat that had just been seen there. I noticed that a flock of lapwings roosting on the shore had flown up alarm calling, and then a flock of starlings feeding on rotting seaweed piles nearby left as well. Sure enough a bird of prey appeared – not the sparrowhawk I was expecting but a juvenile female merlin working her way along the coast from Saucehope to Fife Ness. Merlins are often shore specialists hunting dunlins, pipits and starlings, although as a species merlins are ultimate generalists, taking any smallish bird. August really is the time for merlins in Crail: John Anderson had this merlin or another at Fife Ness earlier this week hunting in the same way, and I also saw a merlin at Kingsbarns last week.

The juvenile merlin that has been hunting along the shore near Crail and Fife Ness this week

Posted August 26, 2018 by wildcrail in Sightings

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