August 3rd   Leave a comment

They have been harvesting the field of oats at lower Kilminning today. When I got there at 7 this evening there were only a couple of tufty bits left uncut, in the field corner that used to be scrubby grass before the field was improved last year. Sure enough there were four whinchats using the only available perch left in the field to launch their sallies from. It was a familiar sight. In Nigeria, whinchats use all types of agricultural land and at the start of the dry season when they arrive in September there are uncut maize fields everywhere. They settle among the tall stems, but sooner or later these get cut down or burnt leaving only a few stumps and open ground. The whinchats stay put even though the habitat has changed completely. I think their trick is that they eat anything insect wise from ants to butterflies, and as long as they have some kind of perch to gain a vantage point, then they are happy in any kind of grassy vegetation. It will be interesting to see whether this hastens their departure from Kilminning though. Unlike wintering birds in Nigeria, these individuals haven’t already got to approximately their final destination, and also need to have a very good feeding rate to build up fat reserves for their migration. A whinchat in Nigeria has a mass of 14 grams whereas a whinchat pre-migration has a mass of 28 grams. They double their body weight and then set off on a potentially 3,000 km flight, with only a few hours off each day, for 3 days and nights. After that they will be back to 15 grams or so and it will take them a week or ten days to refuel to do the same again – and then they will have arrived back home in West Africa. Whinchats really impress me – superb generalists and superb migrants.

One of the Kilminning whinchats this evening making do with the only perch left in the the field after harvesting

Posted August 3, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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