April 26th   Leave a comment

The scarcer migrants are starting to appear at last, with a lesser whitethroat and common redstart reported from Anstruther this morning. I spent my morning exercise period checking Kilminning, Balcomie and the Patch. There were lots of willow warblers, more common whitethroats and more swallows: barn swallows everywhere, a sand martin and the first three house martins of the year (at last). The three swallow species we have here are easy to identify although I often get asked which is which. When you see a swallow – a small bird flying around constantly, catching insects, gliding and swooping continuously and not perching much – you need to check three things. The back pattern – does it have a big square white rump: house martin; is it all blackish then barn swallow; is it sandy brown then sand martin. The underside: all white then house martin; dark throat then barn swallow; white throat but brownish breast then sand martin. The third thing to notice is whether it has very long stiff looking wings, which are never bent at the wrist, then it is a swift. Not a swallow but much like them in aerial, insect catching habits. They are also all dark, look like arrowheads and will be back in Crail at the end of next week. They are the ones that scream at dusk over the town. As with any bit of bird identification, it gets easier with practice, but with swallows and swifts, no binoculars are required as all the features you need to see are obvious even at a distance. You can see all 4 species in Crail at any time between May and August, with the swallows being here from April to October, and sand martins being most likely along the coastal path.

Barn swallow – dark throat (JA)
House martin – white rump (JA)
Sand martin – white throat, brown above and breast (JA)
Swift – long, stiff wings, all dark (JA)

Posted April 26, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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