May 27th   Leave a comment

After the returning black-tailed godwits yesterday, the first goosander of the summer. We always have about 30 or 40 goosanders spending the summer at the Balcomie and most arrive in July. Today’s bird seems a bit early, but even so it could be a male that has already finished a successful breeding season in Scandinavia (or Scotland). Male ducks are more or less redundant after mating and that may have happened six weeks ago. If today’s bird is a male – and goosander males look just like females during their summer moult – then it has already gone through a body moult and lost its peach body feathers, and dark green head. It can now spend the next three months along the quiet Balcomie shore catching lots of small fish and using this energy to grow new feathers and a bright plumage for next year’s brief breeding season.

The first goosander of the summer at Balcomie

The shorebird show continues at Balcomie. Hundreds of birds between the north end of the golf course and Fife Ness. Almost all of the sanderling and all of the dunlin are now are in summer plumage. There are still three or four whimbrels every day, with a couple of birds regularly feeding on the strandline on Balcomie Beach. A curlew is often with them so it is a good opportunity to compare the two species.

A summer plumage sanderling (left) and a summer plumaged dunlin for comparison.
Some of the waders on Balcomie Beach. The sanderling are slightly more blurry compared to ringed plovers – this is because sanderling never stay still when feeding, running around like clockwork mice. The ringed plovers stand motionless looking for prey which they then run up to, so they are much less frantic

There was a late female white wagtail on the beach at Balcomie. The last one was exactly a month ago. It was in exactly the same place. More migrant coincidences. And then a spotted flycatcher again at the top of Kilminning. It was keeping within the canopy and I saw it briefly a couple of times, and then not again for fifteen minutes. It does make me think I am seeing the same skulking birds there every few days, rather than new migrants – although there have clearly been migrants passing through the Patch and lower Kilminning. Another week and I will be looking for signs of chick feeding to finally settle it.

Today’s female white wagtail

Posted May 27, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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