June 30th   Leave a comment

A landmark! I saw a corn bunting carrying nest material this morning. I am fairly sure this is not the first nest being built and most of the current nests were built right under my nose, but nevertheless it is reassuring to know that we are right at the start of corn bunting breeding. It could be a renest of course after an early loss of eggs, but the territory is just outside of Crail and one that I visit often, so probably not. I am getting my eye in on other corn bunting territories. Several males have noticeably shifted their song perches from their usual places they have been using for the last eight to ten weeks. When you then stop to watch them on their new perches you notice that they only sing occasionally and quite quietly. Most of the time they just sit hunched and inactive. Then suddenly they will perk up and another bird will appear from the crop twenty or thirty meters away. The second bird seems likely to be the female coming off the nest. The male then flies after the female with a half fluttering wings display type flight – the female does the same – and chases the female for a bit, catching her up before flying back up to his perch with a further display (wings in exaggerated flaps and legs dangling) and a more vigorous sing. I think this means that finding nests – at least to an approximate area of field – and being able to tell that there is a nest with eggs in a territory is a matter of noting these nest watching males, like little marker flags on their wires. I’m recording where I think the nests are at the moment on the basis of these cues and I will see if the system works later when they start feeding chicks and nest locations will be obvious. Anyway, it’s all very encouraging that things have finally got going with the corn buntings, although there are still quite a few territories where birds seem to be just messing around establishing themselves. Perhaps these are the birds that were still in winter feeding flocks a month ago.

This might not look like much but a corn bunting with a beakful of nest material is very cheering when you are worrying that you have been missing their nests, rather than corn buntings just being a very late nesting species, in a late season

And at the opposite end of the spectrum, I noticed that the Crail garden centre swallows have just fledged five chicks. They returned mid-April (see the entry for April 14th). Allowing for a week of nest building, two weeks of incubation and two weeks of feeding chicks in the nest that means that the swallows started breeding in the last week of May. We had unseasonably cold weather until about the 26th May, so this makes sense, although five weeks is a sobering delay for a species that might usually hope to get two broods fledged by August. The five fledglings were being fed at a rapid rate today, with the parents barely pausing as they fed a chick during a fly past.

Mid-air refuelling by the barn swallows at the old garden centre in Crail today

I heard my second quail of the year this morning from a winter barley field along the old railway track, just where it meets the footpath down to Kingsbarns. Today’s bird was calling much more strongly than the Dunino bird earlier in the month. A bit later I had it, or a second bird, calling from a few hundred meters away in an adjacent field. I don’t think it is a quail year – of any rare species I should detect when surveying corn buntings, it will be quail. Considering I have spent about 132 hours in June in quail habitat, and covered 528 kilometers, that is a low density. Another unusual bird today, although only in a Crail patch context, was a redpoll, calling overhead as it flew into Kippo Wood.

Posted June 30, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

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