Sand Martins, Chiffchaffs and Butterflies

A true spring title for this blog. Spring has been the running theme this week; warmer weather, wildflowers, avian migrants and insects. The week started off with the first Sand Martins of the year. While out doing our last WeBS (Wetland bird survey) count of the winter, we spotted 4 flying over kirkgate point. These enigmatic birds are in the family Hirundinidae – swallows and martins. Collectively known in English as Hirundines. Sand Martin are agile flyers, often seen flying over water hunting for flies. Listen out for their rasppy-buzzy-farty call as they fly over head. They can be confused with Swallows – which have larger wings, a red throat, long tail streamers and a blue sheen to their body. A good guide to confusion species is here;

The fleeting glimpse of a Sand Martin
A better photo – not mine! (c) Gus Routledge

All around the reserve, Chiffchaffs have been calling. These are usually our first spring migrants, arriving back in March from their winter in southern Europe/north Africa. Chiffchaffs are warblers, a family known for their hard identification and similar looking species. The best way to ID a chiffchaff is by its song; a clear – chiff-chaff-chiff-chaff-chiff-chaff. Their main confusion species that you are likely to see in Spring is the Willow Warbler (usually arrive Mid-April). Chiffchaff usually have darker legs, darker plumage and behave a bit differently with more tail-flicking. Chiffchaffs look a bit more dumpy, Willow Warblers have longer wing length, brighter legs, plumage and eyestripe (known as supercilium) and a completely different song. As always, there is variation in birds – so learning the song is a foolproof way to determine species.

Chiffchaff (c) RSPB
Willow Warbler (c) RSPB

I have seen numerous butterflies and bumblebees this week, mainly flying past at a rate of knots. Ive seen Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock Butterflies, Buff-tailed and Common Carder Bumblebees. This amazingly fresh Peacock did co-operate for a split second for a photo. Absolutely stunning, look at those blue eyes on their wings!

Peacock Butterfly

If you are passing the reedbed at Carsehall, or any other wetland around the reserve for that matter; listen out for the croaking frogs! The male Frogs are now calling to attract a mate and compete against other males in the battle to win a female. It did seem that one did catch a bit of luck…

Croaking Frogs – you might have to turn up your volume.
Love is in the air!
Not the best place for it…. I had to shimmy these lovebirds off the path

and on that note, please watch out for frogs and toads on paths as this is the time that they are moving from wetland to wetland. We would rather leave them in peace to get on with their business….

About SimonR

I am a keen naturalist/wildlife conservationist from North-East Scotland. I work at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve as a Reserve Officer and have a deep interest in conservation and wildlife management in Scotland. Keen Birder, naturalist and practical habitat management enthusiast.
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1 Response to Sand Martins, Chiffchaffs and Butterflies

  1. Anne says:

    There is a wonderful vibrancy about this post … an excitement at the turning cycle of life … which is lovely to experience as we enter the dormancy of autumn in the southern hemisphere 🙂

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