May 6th   Leave a comment

Right on cue, straight after the swifts, the arctic terns were back today. I saw five from Balcomie this morning, looking gloriously light and agile after three weeks of sandwich terns, that are fairly graceful themselves. But nothing beats the flight capability of an arctic tern – they can and do fly, more or less, forever. Any of the birds I saw this morning could have flown over 50,000 miles last year, and seen emperor penguins and snow petrels, and tropic and frigatebirds, all in the last three months.

Arctic tern (JA)

Other migrants this morning were still more common whitethroats at Kilminning, five whimbrels and three summer plumaged dunlin (black bellies) at Balcomie, and a wheatear on the airfield. And pride of place, a marsh harrier quartering over the young wheat fields above Sauchope caravan park. Marsh harriers seem to be getting a little bit more common around Crail. I almost expect to see 2-3 a year on passage now whereas ten years ago I would consider myself lucky to see one. Marsh harriers are a durable, all rounder bird of prey. They can exploit almost any open terrestrial or wetland habitats, summer or winter, happy enough on farmland now as well as pristine reedbeds. I suspect they have become less habitat specific over the last few decades – although they still like tall, grassy or reedy vegetation to nest in – enabling them to do much better in the habitats we have created.

A couple of camouflaged whimbrels at Balcomie this morning
Marsh harrier (JA)

Posted May 6, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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