July 5th   Leave a comment

It has been a quiet last few days. Two reasons. It’s now July and we are between the busy periods of spring and autumn migration – there will be some waders and seabirds over the next few weeks but not much else passing through. And the weather has been poor and fairly discouraging. There has been a lot of rain this last week. The total for the end of June for Crail was 38mm. In the first few days of July we have had 17mm which is what we might have in an average East Neuk month. On Friday the 3rd it rained more or less all day. It was only the second day since the lockdown began that I didn’t go out at all.

In a way it is a shame that after the excitement of spring, summer seems quiet when it is the opposite. Our summer residents can put on a good show in July. This morning, for example, at Fife Ness in fifteen minutes of dawn sunshine I probably saw two hundred puffins passing close enough to see the fish they were carrying, half as many gannets, kittiwakes, guillemots and razobills, and perhaps fifty arctic terns. On other days last week, it has been the same from Crail. The flock of goosander were group fishing close in at Balcomie and on the beach there were three newly in dunlin, with black bellies. Over the last few days there have been one or two whimbrel passing Fife Ness, their whistles giving them away. There are more and more curlews back now restoring their calls to the soundscape: there isn’t a month in Crail when we don’t have curlews but they are scarce in May and June. We have had some redshanks passing through but now some of our residents are back, and their distinctive calls are once more part of the comforting local background. Even if you can’t specifically identify a particular shorebird by its call, the odds are that you are familiar with it as part of the seaside sounds that we hear every day. Curlews, redshanks and oystercatchers, like herring gulls, are an unconscious part of everyone’s Crail soundscape.

Three of the best to look out for around Crail in July – goosander, arctic tern and puffin (JA)

Inland many of the breeding songbirds are winding down as the adults become shyer and less showy as they moult. They leave a lot of juveniles though to compensate, like the hundreds of starlings along the coastal path just now. Many species seem to have had a good breeding year. There are lots of fledged stonechats, whitethroats and now sedge warblers. I was at Barnsmuir yesterday and really pleased to finally see one of the yellow wagtails arrive with a beakful of food and a juvenile pop up on to a dyke to receive it. The adult took only a couple of seconds to deliver its food and then both were gone. The adult back into the rows between the wheat and the juvenile back down into cover. There are a lot of hiding places for young wagtails in a July wheat field. I saw another adult carrying food into the middle of different wheat field where I know there wasn’t a nest, suggesting that there are several fledged juveniles (perhaps two broods’ worth) scattered about. The adults call constantly when they are flying and the juveniles just need to fly up to a more conspicuous perch (like a dyke) and call back to get their food delivery. So that’s another successful breeding year for the Crail yellow wagtail colony.

One of the yellow wagtail pairs breeding (successfully!) by Crail this year (JA)

I saw three sand martin down at Room Bay yesterday. It has been hit and miss seeing them there over the last couple of weeks and I didn’t see them go into any of the holes in the sea wall. I think they must have bred – or be breeding – but very inconspicuously, and with a lot of feeding somewhere other than Roome Bay. The house martins, in contrast, are always there and it is cheering to see them doing so well. I watched a pair making a new nest this morning – they can fledge chicks until September. It might be a messy business having a house martin nesting under your eaves, but it is a small price to pay to have these beautiful and irrepressibly cheerful little swallows over your summer garden.

House martin (JA)

Posted July 5, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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