August 2nd   Leave a comment

I spent the morning at Kilminning coast. There were a couple of common sandpipers on the shore. They are very inconspicuous and shy. If it wasn’t for their whistles I wouldn’t have noticed them. Eventually I spotted one working its way up the shore to eventually feed on the pebbles of the strandline – not very much different from the Highland or Norwegian riverbank where this bird was probably born, but a long way from the mangrove in Senegal or Liberia where it was heading. It would not come very close and soon retreated back onto the rocky shore.

Common sandpiper at Kilminning coast – despite the distance you can see this is a juvenile born by an upland river a couple of months ago (white spots on the tertials and thin pale bars on the wing)

There has been a divide of the stonechats and whinchats at Kilminning for the last week. The whinchats – I saw five today – are in the oats, and the stonechats are in the long grass going down to the shore. They do meet at the fence line and they occasionally sit side by side before the grumpier, resident stonechats chase the whinchats away. When they do end up together I have been struck just how similar juvenile stonechats and whinchats can be: some juvenile stonechats look very much like whinchats with a hint of a paler stripe above the eye that usually characterises a whinchat. Then you do really need to check the tail for the lack of white corners at the base. Juvenile whinchats, however, don’t look like stonechats. But if you really want a subtle distinction, I think they fly differently. Stonechats are direct like a dipper, whirring from place to place, whereas whinchats are a bit more swallow or flycatcher-like with a final gliding flourish as they land. That might not be quite it but after spending hundreds of hours looking for whinchats on African farmland I often reliably identify them at a distance in this way. We have now had whinchats at Kilminning for three weeks: in some years we only have whinchats at Kilminning for three days.

Juvenile stonechat at Kilminning coast – compare it to the photo of the juvenile whinchat for July 19th

Posted August 2, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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