Summer and Autumn 2015
This summer Swifts were few and far between in Abernyte, the first ones we’ve heard of appeared on 10th May but we are not aware of any breeding in the village, but you may know differently!
I was lucky to see a squadron of them over Errol one evening, somewhat later in the year on 16th June. An unfortunate event was spotted by Simon at Trottick on 28th June, where one poor Swift’s foot had become entangled, resulting in it being suspended from a piece of blue bailer twine. However after half an hour or so of ladder climbing and extrication by Simon and Barry, the Swift was able to fly off unharmed. Tina tells us that they saw the birds going in and out of their nest hole later, so hopefully all was well and they had a successful brood.
This is not the only Swift known to have become entangled in this way. We have heard of the same thing commonly happening elsewhere in Britain and Europe. Fortunately swift action, meant that the Trottick Swift may have a good future. It just goes to show what a hazard seemingly innocuous materials can be. Probably the bailer twine had been collected as nesting material by house sparrows which nest in similar cavities - Swifts themselves do not build much of a nest. As the Swift could live for up to 18 years we hope that it will go on to breed in years to come.
Some of the hirundines (Swallows and House Martins) seemed to be late setting up nests, some in Kinnaird were just settling in on 24th of May along with Spotted Flycatchers which appeared there about the same time. Around the 1st June we, along with several other Abernytians living adjacent to the demolished barn, were surprised by Swallows appearing inside our open doors and utility rooms, in an attempt to find a nesting site. Eventually some of them settled at the Schoolhouse (outside, not inside, I hasten to add).
As everyone will have noticed, July was cool and wet and not good weather for some of the nesting birds. There were many fatalities in nest boxes containing advanced broods of Blue and Great Tits. The wet weather must have made insect food difficult to gather. But the good news is that it was quite a successful year for Barn Owls with at least two broods fledged in the area.
Despite the wet summer, it was not an entirely bad one for my favourite groups: the butterflies. We have had most of the usual suspects around Abernyte, with one exception, we didn’t see the Small Copper butterfly at all. It does seem to love an open sunny spot with plenty of it’s foodplant, the Sheep Sorrel. Often there are some to be seen on the Glebe, but not this year for some reason.
We were lucky to have the Painted Lady though, although reports that it was to be a bumper year in terms of numbers for this migrant did not materialize.
We were also excited to see a Hummingbird Hawkmoth feeding on our Buddleia alternifolia in June. Buddleia alternifolia is useful as an insect attractant because it fills a “nectar gap” before the other buddleias come out later in the summer. And the migrant Red Admiral has turned up in fair numbers, always a beauty to have around the garden even into the Autumn. We still had one on the wing in Abernyte a couple of weeks ago.
An intriguing report of “a Hitchcockian event of murder, pecking and gouging” occurred in Val’s neighbour’s garden in Inchture. This involved crows, including one that pecked on the window every morning at 5am. Now this is a phenomenon that has occurred in Abernyte as well, only at least 10 years ago! And contacts in Kinnaird have had a similar early morning experience. What is going on? Unfortunately, I can’t answer that one but it seems to only occur in the breeding season. Is the crow trying to get inside to nest or is it attacking its reflection as a rival male?
We had a walk out to the Glebe today. Winter migrants are here, with flocks of fieldfares and redwings around, first seen on 19th October between Knapp and Abernyte.
Now there are regular flocks of Pink footed Geese winging their way between Tay and feeding areas, often passing overhead in skeins of 200 or so at a time. Our first reports of geese may have been of the Canada Geese which travel in large flocks to the Ythan estuary to moult.
About the beginning of October, the Pink-footed geese appeared in small groups flying high and probably just arriving from the breeding grounds way up north. Numbers built up until by 22nd October very large numbers were flying over twice each day.
If you want to see the geese, along with the migratory Whooper Swans, try making a visit to Vane Farm reserve by Loch Leven, or the Wildlife Centre at Montrose Basin. There is also a handy hide beside the Eden at Guardbridge from which you can get an excellent view of some of these birds.
Gardens in Abernyte have flocks of Long-tailed Tits coming in daily to visit the bird feeders and traveling through rapidly, making little contact calls to stay in touch with each other. Sometimes they are mixed in flocks with other Tits, Goldcrests and Treecreepers.
Heather had an interesting visitor to her bird feeders last week – a Mallard duck which was keeping company with pheasants on the lawn. We saw another one wandering round with pheasants in the Glebe field. Could it be having an identity crisis or was it brought up with pheasants as its friends?
Keep your eyes open and put your sightings on the Abernyte Forum which you can find here.