June 8th   Leave a comment

Today’s highlight was an adult cuckoo at lower Kilminning. It flew in front of me – they are incredibly distinctive when you know what to look at. Very raptor like but also with odd drooping wings. They can look like a strange sparrowhawk if you are not familiar with cuckoos when you see one. It perched briefly on the top of a whitebeam but was soon off. Cuckoos are shy birds. The middle two weeks of June are the best time to see a cuckoo at Kilminning as returning birds follow the coast south. Being cuckoos, their breeding season is done. They are the migrants that spend the shortest time here and some cuckoos will be back in central Africa by August. The juveniles follow later in August. Scottish cuckoos head through central Europe and Italy and seem to survive better on migration than English cuckoos which head through Iberia. There have been much harsher summer drought conditions in Iberia over the last decade which makes it tough for a species that needs to find lots of large, juicy caterpillars.

Another highlight today was seeing the three shelduck chicks at Balcomie again. Where they have been for the last 10 days I don’t know. Perhaps my early morning visits caught them while they were still huddled up somewhere on the strandline – it has been cold and stormy. I know eider chicks come up onto the beach overnight and huddle together. Anyway great news and I will be more careful in writing off shelducks as bad parents in the future.

Linnets are an interesting species. They breed in a loose colony in dense bushes and then go off in groups to forage nearby. Like starlings I suppose. It makes me wonder how they coordinate the comings and goings to feed chicks, but perhaps they don’t. Linnets are one of the commonest species of finch out in the rough grass along the coast. They have a twittering musical call that is one of the sounds of the coastal path. Males and females almost always stick together – females are less distinctive, but the males are easy, so look for the males to learn the females. Males have grey heads and a rich chestnut back, and then an obvious patchy reddish-pink breast: both sexes have a white wing bar and obvious white in the tail when they fly.

Male linnet above a nesting bush at Kilminning this morning

Posted June 8, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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