August 15th   Leave a comment

It was a good August day with good birds turning up all day. Thirty minutes sea watching from Castle Walk this morning produced a dark phase arctic skua. Skuas fly with such intention, like a force of nature, scattering the kittiwakes in front of them. And dark phase arctic skuas, in all over sooty black look the part. I sea watched again over lunch from Balcomie Beach. There was a steady passage of mostly sandwich terns heading north, with occasional common and arctic. And behind a small group of juvenile and adult common terns, a black tern. Distant but obvious with its much darker body and wings – looking fairly black so possibly even an adult in mostly summer plumage – and its shorter, broader wings and shorter tail compared to the common terns it was with. They look a lot like waders in silhouette before you see that they are in fact a tern. I really like black terns – they are common at sea in West Africa and seeing this one past Crail took me back to beaches in Liberia and Senegal. Black terns are annual past Fife Ness, but I only see one about every two years. As well as the terns, a couple of bonxies came past – three skuas today in total, perhaps indicating that they are becoming more common this autumn, at last.

A juvenile black tern passing Fife Ness (JA)

I was surprised to see a browner, shorter tailed wagtail amongst the pied wagtails on the beach at the Kilminning end of Sauchope Caravan Park. I looked at it more closely – a juvenile yellow wagtail, and then another, and then a third. They were very shy and retreated to the airfield above. They shuttled between the beach and the wheat field in the airfield, keeping close together and all of a similar age. I did have a yellow wagtail on June 16th in the same place in the corner of the airfield – I put it down as a migrant. But perhaps a pair bred there. They could easily breed on the airfield undetected as I never visit it in the summer. I will check out the area properly next year.

Yellow wagtail – this one actually a May bird but quite like a bird today with a fair bit of yellow and the black throat and breast markings (JA)

There were a couple of new whinchats in the usual corner at Kilminning late afternoon. One with a pale primaries almost like a stonechat: both looked like adults, and both were very wary. It has been a great summer for whinchats at Kilminning. The shyness of the yellow wagtails and the whinchats was compensated for by an in your face juvenile wheatear, perky and confident along the fence line.

The juvenile wheatear at Kilminning this afternoon

Posted August 15, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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