July 28th   Leave a comment

We doubled the rainfall for July last night with 13 mm falling in about an hour at midnight. A proper thunderstorm is unusual for Crail – but probably less so in the climate change years ahead. It was fairly damp and muddy this morning and I was dreading my walk round the potato field at Oldbarns. But it was worse than I was imagining – the tops of all the potato plants had been chopped off yesterday in preparation for harvest in a few weeks. There are four corn bunting nests in this field. I walked through the field a lot to survey the damage – ironically it is now really easy to survey, with the furrows and tram tracks exposed. I quickly noticed that the tops had been taken off at about 15cm – a substantial haircut, but still leaving some leaves and the stems. Any nests might well have survived, although they would now be much more exposed to predators and the elements. I became slightly hopeful and to my surprise all four corn bunting territories were still there and with birds behaving much as previous visits. I am cautiously optimistic that the nests have survived, although perhaps only for now. One silver lining, although again with the caveat of I am not sure for how long, I found another active yellow wagtail nest, right in the middle of the field which was previously inaccessible to me. A pair were feeding chicks and mobbing me vigorously. Clearly another survivor of the potato cutting. This is nest number 9 that I have found – and with two that I have seen fledged juveniles from – makes a record-breaking minimum of 11 this year from at least 6 pairs. The other second brood at Oldbarns, in the winter wheat, fledged yesterday with lots of frantic male and female calling as the young spread out into the crop. This morning there were two males, a female and a juvenile from one of the first nests in the area.

The potato field at Oldbarns after its haircut yesterday. Compare this to the degree of cover for the nest in the photo on July 25th below.
The female and male from yellow wagtail nest no. 9 hanging on in the field and still feeding chicks in a nest despite the much reduced vegetation. You can see that the cut was high enough that it would have passed easily over a nest on the ground, among the main stems. I hope the same thing applies to the 4 corn bunting nests in the field. They are all still at the egg stage or just hatching, and will have to survive, relatively exposed for another 12-14 days.

Posted July 28, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

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