Week ending December 11th   Leave a comment

The big wild Crail event of the week was the storm on Thursday. We may not have had the strongest winds in Scotland but some of the gusts we had were still scarily strong. I think it was the contrast between the relatively quiet periods and the incredibly strong squalls that made it particularly memorable. Wind speeds literally doubled from quite windy to storm force in a matter of seconds. The highest gusts of wind I recorded from my garden behind the High Street were about 23 meters per second (that’s 51 mph in old money). This perhaps puts in perspective the conditions in other parts of Scotland that had gusts of double this speed. I think we got off fairly lightly although it didn’t seem so at the time. Some branches down in Denburn and a five hour power cut on Thursday night. There was much more damage to trees in the storm we had in May this year.

Whooper swans and starling (sorry about low res this week due to broadband problems) )

The whooper swans have continued their residence in the fields between Crail and Anstruther. There were 34 there still this Sunday lunchtime. One of the swans has a rusty orange neck and head contrasting with the glorious white of the other birds. It looks like it has been dipped in Irn Bru. In a way it probably has been. Some whoopers breed around iron rich pools in Iceland and get their necks stained as they continually submerge their heads to feed on the bottom. The whoopers have been sharing the field with the hundreds of starlings that are usually in the fields of the adjacent pig farm. It has been a great spectacle to watch them swirling around the swans.

On Friday evening I had a magical moment when a flock of whoopers flew over my house. I heard their gentle honking so rushed outside. They came over at rooftop height, shining in the moonlight. Swans flying by the moon, gently calling, don’t seem of this world. Despite the magic of the moment I still couldn’t stop myself counting them (16) and wondering if they were part of our current resident flock or new arrivals from Europe.

There was a big flock of fieldfares in the stubble fields behind Crail on Sunday. We don’t tend to have fieldfares much except when they are coming through in the autumn and spring, so these may be birds fleeing colder weather on the Continent.

Fife Ness is great at the moment for sea ducks. There are red-breasted mergansers, goldeneyes and long-tailed ducks all close in at Balcomie Bay. There was a grey plover on the beach on Sunday morning. You can identify grey plovers most easily when they fly because they have very distinctive black “armpits” (axillaries in technical bird plumage terms). They also have a lovely human-like whistle “whee-you-whee” call. Like whimbrels they are easy to imitate and a lonely single grey plover flying by will sometimes come and have a closer look if you whistle their call at them.

Grey plovers - look for the black armpits

Posted December 11, 2011 by wildcrail in Sightings

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