January 1st 2011   Leave a comment

A new year. Last year I recorded 145 bird species around Crail (Kingsbarns to Anstruther). This has been my best year so far since I started “year listing” for Crail in 2006 (140, 132, 127 & 132 for the last 4 year totals). To put this into context, today I saw 49 different species, and my best day total is about 75 (it’s best in the spring when you get the summer migrants as well as the winter residents). Overall, in the seven or so years that I have lived in Crail I have seen 190 different bird species in the “parish” so far. In the first year I saw, as you could predict from the average year lists above, about 140 species, the following year another 21 new species, the next 10 more and the next another 8. This is to be expected – you see the common ones every year, the rarer ones every few years and the really rare ones gradually accumulate over many years. But as the years go on the chance of recording new species goes down – you can only record a species as new the first time you see it of course. For 2010, for example, I only added four new species to my overall Crail list. But why worry about a list at all? Well you might as well ask why people keep score in any game – it’s a marker to measure how you are doing. But it also acts a record of what we have in our environment and what we don’t, and perhaps most importantly of all, what we are losing. This year I will be aiming for 150 species, so only another 101 to go.

Black Redstart

A great bird to start any year list was down at Roome Bay below the cliffs this morning. There was a male black redstart. They are very handsome birds; rare breeders in the UK and fairly rare winter visitors. They like very rocky barren areas and are famous for breeding in urban wasteland sites in the south of England or around rooftops. Sea cliffs are a favoured wintering habitat in the UK so it may stay in Roome Bay for a while. The black redstart, however, had to avoid the rock pipits it was competing with for insects on the strandline. I saw one rock pipit chase the redstart so savagely that it ended up pushed onto its back by the rock pipit’s violent pecking. The redstart looked shaken for a few seconds afterwards before it resumed feeding higher up the cliffs away from the pipits.

Another highlight today was a flock of six brent geese flying east along the shore. They are more usual in autumn.

Posted January 1, 2011 by wildcrail in Sightings

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