May 29th   Leave a comment

Today it was all about the chicks as more and more species are now getting their young out and about. The starlings have been making their very grumpy churring call all week to indicate that their chicks have started to fledge. I saw one just out of the nest at Balcomie Castle, keeping well within the cover of an elder bush. They are very vulnerable and the carrion crows have starling chicks on the menu for a couple of weeks until they get flight capable. Best for the new fledglings to hide. That said there were three young starlings later, on the strandline with some adults on Balcomie Beach. They must have fledged at least a week ago.

A freshly fledged starling chick this morning hiding from predators

And then some great chick news: there were three new shelduck chicks on show from the pair at the north end of the golf course. Not the big numbers of last year, so perhaps there was a mate change over the winter, and this was why there was all the fighting earlier in the season. Even so great to see the shelducks with some chicks and I will keep my fingers crossed for the other pairs between this one and Crail.

Shelduck chicks – also newly minted – at Balcomie today

Balcomie Beach has changed considerably overnight. Yesterday there were still hundreds of small waders. Today only about 25. Most of the sanderlings have gone. And only two whimbrels this morning, including one on the deserted golf driving range – the last day this will be an option I think. There was a new migrant shorebird though, a common sandpiper on the rocks at Sauchope. They are not too uncommon on the rocky shore in July and August, but today’s bird was early. Another likely failed breeder – if it is an adult, it might well be back in Liberia or adjacent West African country by mid-June.

A common sandpiper hanging out at a beach side bar in Liberia this January. This could easily be a British bird – tagged birds have gone to this area of West Africa. They have a territory in both summer and wintering grounds and go back and forth between them all their lives. My Crail bird today will be on its way between them.

I looked for the spotted flycatchers at Kilminning quite hard this morning but no sightings. I did find a sparrowhawk nest though. I have been hearing a female making its soft “kee-kee-kee” for a couple of weeks as the male delivers prey to her as she sits. The male is coming and going and is obvious, but the female is hard to see as she sits on her untidy stick pile near the top of a pine. I could see her tail sticking out on one side. You can’t see it well in the photo below but the nest is surrounded by down, clinging to the branches like fake snow. These are the remains of all the prey that the male has been bringing in to the female. Males often do most of the plucking at a fixed perch close to, but not at the nest, but this one seems to be letting the female do the job on site.

The female sparrowhawk sitting on the nest at Kilminning
And the male a bit more obvious – soaring above the nest site last week (JA)

Posted May 29, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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