December 24th   Leave a comment

It was a clear and sunny, beautiful day. A proper Crail day, snow notwithstanding. The temperature climbed to just above freezing although there was not much obvious thaw. But south facing grassy banks are thawing in the last days’ sunshine and the woodcocks and song thrushes are taking advantage.

I walked from Cellardyke back to Crail this morning along the coastal path. The snow is still down to the high tide line and the birds were concentrated along the shore and particularly at the pig farm. The skylarks there were very obvious against the snow and with them a single lapland bunting. At last I had a decent view of one on the ground. It was completely unconcerned, feeding just 20 meters away. Again I was surprised at how difficult it was to pick out amongst the skylarks. Unless you really check each skylark out in a flock (and this is usually impossible when it’s not snowy) you will overlook them.

Grey Partridges in the snow

There was a covey of 20 grey partridges at Caiplie, and another 12 just by Crail. They, like the skylarks, usually don’t stand out in the fields, but they can’t hide in the snow. I usually never see such large groups and I think this is a consequence of the snow. I studied grey partridges (along with a PhD student of mine, Mark Watson) a few years ago. We found out that larger groups lead to higher survival rates for individuals, probably because they can share vigilance for predators and so allocate more time to feeding. In cold winter weather then the partridges need to feed as long as possible and so will prioritise this by grouping, rather than maintaining their territories.

There were a few bramblings at Caiplie at a bird feeder there. There are also quite a few fieldfares around Crail now, and a flock of redwings eating holly berries in Bow Butts. These three winter visitors are usually only here on passage but the cold weather has brought them back to us from further inland, as with the woodcock.

There are more wigeon along the shore at the moment. These ducks have bulbous looking heads and the males have an orange crown, so they are fairly obviously different from the mallards with which they are usually mixed in with.

Wigeon

Posted December 24, 2010 by wildcrail in Sightings

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