April 7th   Leave a comment

The long forecast heatwave finally hit Crail today, with temperatures hitting a comfortable 15 degrees this afternoon. The southerly winds have continued to bring in the migrants. This morning I had my first willow warbler at the ruined cottage at Balcomie Castle: no song just the very fast feeding of a bird newly in after a long overnight flight. Then my first sand martin flying north along the shore at Balcomie where I saw the swallow yesterday, closely followed by my first northern wheatear on the rocky shore below. You wait for ages and then three come along at once. These with two more barn swallows at Sauchope beach, a chiffchaff singing in Denburn and the now resident local pair of lesser black-backed gulls over my garden made a six species of summer migrant day. With the good weather continuing for the next few days this total is bound to go up. There were several ospreys passing over further west in Fife today and there is always a possibility of one over Crail: listen out for the gulls really making a fuss and then check overhead.

My first willow warbler of the year at Balcomie this morning
Male northern wheatear – John Anderson took this a couple of days ago at Balcomie when he saw his first of the year

The other excitement at Balcomie today was with the shelducks. The “resident” pair in the first bay to the north of Balcomie Beach was having a protracted fight with a second pair, who obviously thought that this was the best place on the coast to breed as well. Last year this was the site where a pair (the first pair in the story today?) successfully fledged a lot of chicks, so I know it is a good site, and the original pair will know this, but how the second pair know is a good question. Perhaps unsuccessful pairs scoped out the coast last summer and saw the same signs I did. Both birds in the pair were involved. The male chasing the other male, sometimes flying at it and pecking while it retreated. The female was more restrained but still crowded the second female, swimming relentlessly at it so it had to give way. It’s a good rule of thumb that the owner of a territory wins any battle, but without marked birds I will have no idea of the outcome. At least the signs are good that there will be at least one pair breeding this year at Balcomie.

Some of the shelduck fight at Balcomie today

Posted April 7, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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