July 18th   Leave a comment

More whinchats are accumulating at Kilminning. Today there were at least five – I saw four juveniles and an adult along the usual fence and then all feeding on the gravel road. They looked beguilingly like a family party but the first two arrived 6 days ago, one more yesterday, and now two more today. They weren’t a very happy family either, displacing and chasing each other as they fed on the ground or in the adjacent field of oats. But if I hadn’t been visiting Kilminning daily since March, looking unsuccessfully for whinchats each time, I would be fairly happy that there had been a successful breeding attempt there on the strength of today’s sightings. There is nothing wrong with Kiminning as a breeding site for whinchats though. In the same way that much of Fife is suitable for spotted flycatchers, cuckoos and common redstarts, but no longer has many of them, whinchats are a scarce breeding species because of the large population declines of migrant birds over the last sixty years. Reduction in habitat quality – mainly insect abundance – is the main cause, because of agricultural intensification. But population processes also are important. We are edge of range, on the northwest edge of Europe, and as populations shrink, they contract to the centre of the range. Populations lost at the edges have fewer opportunities to be re-established than at the centre so even the remaining suitable habitat is likely to stay unoccupied. Anyway, whinchats are at least with us this week and it is a joy to see them feeding well in readiness for their continuing journey to West Africa. And speaking of journeys to West Africa: I heard the first two tree pipits of the season flying over today. Another late summer, rather than autumn migrant. In contrast, the sedge warblers are still singing their hearts out as if they are still in full breeding mode.

One of the five whinchats now at Kilminning – this one is a juvenile

Posted July 18, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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