July 8th   Leave a comment

Surprisingly I saw only my first common terns of the year at Balcomie this afternoon. Some springs they are unusual – but never absent. And there is often a pair or two that regularly fish at Roome Bay or Fife Ness during the early summer. Late summer they are everywhere, as are Arctic and sandwich terns. The common terns today were in a mixed flock of the three tern species, taking it easy on the rocks at high tide. There were also a few whimbrels about today – I am hearing one or two calling every day now as they pass down the coast. One was snoozing with the terns this afternoon. I also saw my first common sandpiper of the year: the first finished breeders now heading back to West Africa like the whimbrels. If you have ever been to an African mangrove forest you will know that common sandpipers and whimbrels are the signature birds of this habitat: such a contrast to the rocky shore at Balcomie and testament to how generalist waders are. As I scanned the shore for terns and waders I was really pleased to see the Balcomie shelduck pair (well at least one of them) with five, well grown, chicks. The chicks are big enough to escape the gulls now, so another successful breeding year.

Common tern (John Anderson)

I was just heading for home after finishing checking some corn buntings territories when I heard a yellow wagtail flying over my head. I followed it to Balcomie golf course. A male, very busy collecting small flies from the one of the fairways. Another breeding attempt and 4.5 km away from this year’s nearest at Oldbarns. If they bred on the airfield last year – which I am fairly sure they did – then 1.8 km from the nearest previously known nest. This means that this year we have had at least 5 yellow wagtail nests spread over 7.8 km. It all started with just a couple of nests at Oldbarns six years ago. It’s really encouraging.

The male (top) and the female yellow wagtail breeding at Balcomie. The nest is in an asparagus field, hidden underneath one of the potato plants that have grown up under the asparagus from tubers left from last year. Both birds are foraging well away from the nest.

Another encouraging sign. Two of the oak trees we planted in the new Bow Butts Park, next to Denburn, have survived and are fully in leaf. Today I saw a chaffinch singing from one of them. Nearly more chaffinch than tree, but as we know, large oaks grow from little acorns. In a couple of decades there will be chaffinches nesting in them.

A chaffinch enjoying one of the new oak trees at Bow Butts

Posted July 8, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

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