August 22nd   Leave a comment

I did the full circuit this morning – Wormiston, Balcomie, Fife Ness, Kilminning and then Sauchope, rather than concentrating on Kilminning. Things have gone off, with the wind southerly and south westerly for the last two days. The chance of a scarce migrant has diminished but the usual August fare is still worth going out for. There was a lump in the newly harvested rape field on the way to Wormiston. It turned out to be a kestrel sitting on the ground. It wasn’t feeding and I can only think it was hunting. Kestrels are fairly good at catching birds when they try and it was fairly well camouflaged in the field. A linnet or reed bunting could easily miss it until too late. I have only seen a handful of successful kestrel hunts on birds and they were all launched from a perch, by surprise onto a bird on the ground. But perhaps this was a young bird that hasn’t got it together yet.

Ground hunting Kestrel at Wormiston – or maybe just having a rest

A little later I flushed a sparrowhawk perched at the back of Balcomie Beach doing the same. It was low tide so the only things in distance were the pied wagtails.  Anything beyond about 25 meters tends to get away in time on a sparrowhawk attack. The sparrowhawk was a male so a pied wagtail is a reasonably sized prey item. That said, it was only a hopeful sparrowhawk. The swallows hawking along the dunes gave it away, with their loud “chees-eep, chees-eep” mobbing calls. There are still a lot of sparrowhawks to be seen – this morning I saw five. Kestrels as well, three today – I think the local nesters at the airfield have probably done well this year.

And the sparrowhawk doing the same at Balcomie Beach – it is staring at a group of pied wagtails further down the beach

The sea was quiet from Fife Ness. Only a handful of sandwich terns, kittiwakes and a flock of five turnstones passing. There were swifts coming in from the sea though, clearly on migration, and perhaps after cutting the corner off from the Aberdeenshire coast. The swifts in Crail left last Monday, with a reprise on Wednesday with 8 or so birds over the High Street on Wednesday. Otherwise it has been only ones or twos. I wish them well down to Liberia or Sierra Leone and will look forward to them coming back next May – hopefully to my swift boxes.

Kilminning had a spotted flycatcher in the woodland along the Crail road. It was keeping in the canopy, probably out of the wind, with a flock of tits and willow warblers. At the bottom it was more willow warblers and a couple of adult looking whinchats along the usual fence line. Both whinchats and spotted flycatchers seem to occur on a westerly wind, coming from the west of Scotland, as well as during easterlies, coming from Scandinavia. There were at least two yellow wagtails still among the pied wagtails on the beach at the east end of Sauchope caravan park. If they stay a week longer while the other migrants of the last couple of weeks have gone then I think it is a reasonable assumption that they were locally produced, and probably from a nest on the airfield. It’s a shame I can only speculate – one more nest adding to the five I am sure about in the Crail area this year is a fantastic total.

One of the juvenile yellow wagtails at Sauchope this last week – they are really shy and fly off to the airfield if any of the coastal path walkers (or me) stop by the beach

Posted August 22, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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