May 19th   Leave a comment

A much better day weather wise for finding birds – and there are now 14 bluethroats on the May. So more hopeful searching. No bluethroats here again but hardly fruitless. I found two lesser whitethroat, a whinchat, two garden warblers and three spotted flycatchers between Wormiston, upper Kilminning and the Patch at Fife Ness, and saw a pied flycatcher, another garden warbler and whinchat, and a wood warbler that were found by others at lower Kilminning. There were a couple of northern wheatears and 50+ arctic terns on the rocks at Balcomie, and the mixed flock of sanderling, ringed plover and dunlin on the beach. So a great mid-May day, with the best part of migrant May still to come. It was really nice to see garden warblers again after missing them entirely around Crail last year. The one at lower Kilminning gave really nice views so I could really appreciate how chunky they are, with stout bills for a warbler – almost like a vireo. They are a very subtle warbler – really no characteristic features at all, but ensemble somehow very distinctive. The other highlight were the whinchats. I don’t get to see nice bright males in breeding plumage on the wintering ground in Africa.

Spotted Flycatcher in the Patch today (WC)
Garden Warbler lower Kilminning (WC)
Male Whinchat no. 1 lower Kilminning (WC)
Whinchat no. 2 on the edge of the field between Kilminning and Balcomie Castle (WC)

I say this every year, but it seems to always be true. There are more common whitethroats breeding around Crail this year than last. Whitethroat numbers were halved in the 1960s due to the drought in the Sahel where they refuel before crossing the Sahara in spring. Their populations have been recovering gradually ever since as they have changed their wintering grounds and the Sahel moved to a wetter phase in the 1990s. The upshot of this is that there are whitethroats breeding right in the middle of Crail this year – one now has a territory from the sheep field over to the restored doocote and yesterday I had my first common whitethroat in my back garden. I put it down as a migrant, but today it was singing a bit so it may be a hopeful breeder too.

Common whitethroat (JA)

Posted May 19, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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