March 21st   Leave a comment

The days are now longer than the nights! Summer is on the way. But with a cold wind from the south-east today. I tried sea-watching from Fife Ness. It was busy but nothing unusual. Still a steady passage of razorbills – I counted 146 in ten minutes heading north. Only two guillemots with them. Smaller numbers of kittiwakes were heading north as well. As I counted the razorbills flying by I noticed one of them in a small flock doing the exaggerated slow, deep wing beats they do when displaying. I usually see this when I make a spring trip to the May, when pairs fly around close together, one displaying to the other. This time the flock it was with responded by landing on the sea. It was if it was a signal for the whole group to slow down and stop rather than something to do with pairing up.

Razorbills displaying (JA)

On the way to Fife Ness there was a flock of curlew and starling in the sheep field by the airfield. A big field, but the two species were in the same small area. They might have been in the best place for feeding, but actually I think the starlings were using the curlews as sentries. Curlews are tall, vigilant birds – they will see a sparrowhawk coming much earlier than a starling, especially one with its head in tussocky grass. Although a sparrowhawk or a merlin wouldn’t be much of a threat to a curlew, they always become tense and vigilant, calling an alarm when they spot one. So the starlings can get on with more feeding confident that one of their bigger neighbours is doing the job of lookout. 

Starlings and curlews out at the airfield this morning

The frogs in my pond have moved out. Not a sign of them now considering the activity and numbers of them two weeks ago. But they have left behind a lot of frog spawn. About 6 large clumps, maybe more – it’s hard to see into the depths where a couple of the biggest are. Last year we had just two clumps so I am hopeful we will have a garden full of even more tiny frogs at the end of the summer. There is no sign of the toads we introduced breeding yet but I am hopeful that they will appear in a couple of weeks. I did see a huge toad in our compost heap as we emptied it today for the spring growing season. Probably not one of our tadpoles – it was about as big as my outstretched palm so probably very many years old. It was unhappy about being disturbed and crawled into a crack in the wall head first. It was too big to fit in and so it stayed like a toddler playing hide and seek, with just its head hidden. We moved it into our toad house – a big broken clay plant pot at the back of one of our flower beds – and covered most of the pot with compost to keep it cosy. The toad house has never had a toad in it so far, it was full of snails though, waiting for warmer weather and the newly planted vegetables. The snails have been evicted, and the toad a much better tenant.

Frog spawn – not terribly exciting to look at, but something optimistic and something to look forward to.
Our toad in the compost heap

Posted March 21, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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