New breeders and passage migrants

Craig Nisbet is the warden on our Noss National Nature Reserve. With a keen interest in birds he has been sharing news of his latest sightings, and below he updates us on what he has spotted in the month of June.

June has been a month of varying fortunes for two species of bird on Noss this year. Both golden plover and greylag goose made breeding attempts this season.

Golden plovers have bred on Noss in small numbers in the past, with the last successful attempt being made in 2008. Greylag geese on the other hand have never been recorded breeding here, and with this year’s attempt they become the 32nd species of breeding bird for Noss. The pair of golden plover had been observed holding territory since May of this year, with the familiar plover-like broken wing diversion display tactic being seen by my colleague Andy while passing them by. We were delighted this week when a chick of no more than a few days old was discovered under their protection near the south side of the island, and we’re hopeful that they can bring their youngster to fledging age over the coming weeks.

Golden plover

Golden plover

The greylag geese were surprisingly more elusive, and nothing was known of their breeding intentions until this week, when I was surprised to see a pair of them leading two few-day old goslings toward Cradle Holm. The adults flew, leaving the young goslings alone to wander down a near vertical embankment. It was heart-breaking to watch one fall to its death, while another valiantly struggled to climb the cliff back to its calling parents, before being predated by a hooded crow. A dangerous part of the island for geese to breed.

Greylag goose

Greylag goose

Spring has been brightened up in no small part this year by the visits of a few stunning migrants. By far the most unusual of visits was the nightingale, usually seen no further north than their breeding grounds in the south of England.

Nightingale

Nightingale

The most colourful of our visitors was the striking spring male bluethroat, with his spectacular blue patch glistening in the early June sunlight after being discovered in typically drizzly conditions the night before.

Bluethroat

Bluethroat

A familiar British bird with parasitic tendencies stopped in briefly for a visit a few days later, and although its distinctive call was not heard, the regal appearance of a male cuckoo was unmistakable. Their habit of using other birds’ nests to rear their young doesn’t endear them to many people, but as strategists they must be admired, as they are able to use smaller passerines as hosts to their offspring while they promptly depart for warmer wintering grounds in Africa.

Cuckoo

Cuckoo

The latest migratory highlight was an icterine warbler. After a fall of them in Shetland on various other islands the previous week, we were delighted to have discovered that Noss had not been excluded after all. The chances are that this individual was in fact one of the birds that had already been in Shetland, and with unfavourable winds would probably have been biding its time before continuing its migration eastwards.

Icterine warbler

Icterine warbler

The peak of spring migration has now passed, but with some of the biggest Noss rarities having turned up in June and July, you really never know when something extraordinary may turn up.

 

Images courtesy of Craig Nisbet.

Find out more about Noss NNR at http://www.nnr-scotland.org.uk/noss/

 

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