May 26th   Leave a comment

There were two new shorebirds joining the usual crowd on Balcomie beach this morning. The sun was in my eyes so I didn’t notice four black-tailed godwits until they flew up in front of me, gaining height and heading off strongly northwards up the coast. It’s late for breeding birds to be moving. The furthest north black-tailed godwits breed is Iceland, and the breeding season there has been going for three weeks. They breed across central Europe (even some in southern England) and there, the breeding season will have started in April. So I think these birds have probably failed already, perhaps lost their mate, or even lost their breeding site, and so are headed back to somewhere like the Eden estuary to start their non-breeding season early. In contrast, the other new species, four knot further up the beach, could still be heading north to start their breeding season. Like the many sanderling and turnstone on the beach around them, they are extreme northerly breeders. They have one of the shortest breeding seasons with barely any time sandwiched between the last snow of June and the first snows of August.

Black-tailed godwit (JA)
Knot (JA) – this one at Balcomie last Friday

There were more eider chicks to be seen despite the strong winds over the weekend which must have made it difficult for them to get across safely from the May island. There were good size groups in a couple of places along the shore at Balcomie and another at Sauchope. The ratio of adult females to the number of chicks is high though suggesting that many chicks didn’t make it. Eiders have about 5 chicks so the ratio should be 4 or 5 chicks to every female to start with, and at the moment this ratio is more like 2 to 1. Still they breed every year and live a long time, so they only need to get a couple of chicks to adulthood in the long run.

Eider chick creche at Sauchope this morning

Posted May 26, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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