Archive for July 2012

July 30th   Leave a comment

There was a newly minted redshank juvenile on the Crossroads pool this evening. Spotted plumage, dull bill and orange legs. It looked like it has just dropped down at its first stop after heading south from wherever it was born in the north or west of Scotland this year. Perhaps it was one of the ones I saw in Shetland a couple of weeks ago. It was with 5 dunlin. All indicative of the constant changeover at this exciting pool at the moment. What will be there tomorrow?

A juvenile redshank


Posted July 30, 2012 by aboutcrail in Sightings

July 29th   2 comments

Common sandpiper flying with its wings distinctively bowed

The waders are coming back. There were three new colour-ringed redshanks back at Roome Bay today. That makes 13 of my individually recognisable birds back so far this year. Over half of the adults back are colour-ringed which makes me happy. Lots to catch and to turn into individuals over the coming winter, but also lots of old friends to welcome back. One, so far, “Yellow Yellow Blue Green” is back for its 6th winter. I ringed it originally in Crail harbour as an adult so it is at least 7 years old. I counted about 22 redshanks at Roome Bay today including two juveniles. They are easily recognisable at this time of year because they look spotty all over their back and wings, whereas the adults look fairly uniform grey. Generally the adults arrive first and the juveniles come a month or two later. It was very noticeable that while the adults were snoozing in the sunshine at high tide, the juveniles were busy feeding away amongst the rocks in the background. The young birds will be low in the pecking order and unable to get to the best feeding areas when the adults are feeding. They will also be less proficient at foraging so can’t spend as much time lazing compared to the adults.

There was a single common sandpiper on the rocks with the redshank. They are a common migrant on the rocks around Crail during the end of July and during August. Common sandpipers are the tiny waders you see on burns and shingly river banks in the Highlands during the summer. They winter in Africa and so pass through coastal areas on their way south. We might have about a dozen with us on a good day. They make a very shrill peeping when disturbed and fly off with shivering wings held slightly bowed, so are quite distinctive.

There were other migrant waders today. A pair of whimbrels past West Braes and another pair out at Fife Ness in the evening. They were whistling away as they passed and I whistled back. They came in from the sea and circled high above my head, disappointed not to find another travelling companion. They flew off strongly to the south and are probably already in England. Dunlins are back in small numbers. Some still have their black bellies. There was one in Roome Bay yesterday in perfect summer plumage. It must have just come off the hills further north after finishing breeding. I also had my first golden plover back for the winter today. Like the dunlin they still had their black bellies of summer plumage although a couple (there were six) were spotty underneath and well on their way to their white winter plumage underneath.

Dunlin showing its black belly of summer breeding plumage

The pool out at the crossroads near the Troustie House turnoff is looking good again this summer. A fairly large pool with lots of exposed mud around the edges is perfect for waders passing south at this time of year. On Friday night I had 9 common snipe there. Today there were two wood sandpipers reported first thing in the morning and a little ringed plover in the evening. I went twitching after the LRP (what you text if you send out an alert for a little ringed plover and what I got on my phone at 6:30 tonight along with the location): it would have been a new Crail bird for me. I dipped (didn’t see it) but did see a single tired looking dunlin. I must get out to the pool early morning and evening as much as I can. Anything wader wise could and will turn up.

There was a lovely male common scoter at Fife Ness this evening. Jet black in the patchy sunshine with a surprisingly conspicuous bright yellow bill. The sea ducks are on their way back too. I had six male velvet scoters flying past Crail yesterday. No surprise that the early arrivals are males which do little chick care and so they can head south much earlier than the females.

Male common scoter – the yellow bill really shows up well on this bird. It is hanging around the tip of Fife Ness just now.

Posted July 29, 2012 by aboutcrail in Sightings

July 19th   Leave a comment

Young puffin – a bit older than a newly fledged puffling but you get the idea

There are a lot of puffins out in the Forth tonight. They are fledging and I could count hundreds sitting on the water from Crail this evening. It’s hard to see the young ones – they are small and dark, but the accompanying adults are in big groups with their still white faces making them much more conspicuous. The sea was a bit choppy and the visibility not brilliant to really see how many were out there. On the May the island is full of pufflings making their way down to the sea right now. Some have a real job negotiating the nettles that grow on some of the slopes. The young puffins can’t fly initially and will swim away from the island to finish their growing up on the sea like the guillemots have done already, and earlier the razorbills.

Posted July 19, 2012 by aboutcrail in Sightings

July 18th   Leave a comment

More of Fife’s soil disappearing into the Forth

I’m tempted to just write rain, rain, rain, rain….forever. We had 22.2mm of rain today. That’s a wet month for us until recently, and all in one day. Down at Roome Bay the water was pouring out of the Denburn through the wall and up through the turf. We had our own Niagara Falls last night. It was much worse at the Brandyburn. There was so much soil being washed out that the sea was brown out for 300 meters.

The new falls of Denburn…

Posted July 19, 2012 by aboutcrail in Sightings

July 17th   Leave a comment

Reed bunting – a late breeder in the rape field opposite the Wormiston turnoff

I have been away on Shetland for the last two weeks. When I came back the day before yesterday the signs of late summer were clear. There are few birds singing now and most will be moulting and generally keeping a low profile. As I cycled to St Andrews today I noticed a few yellowhammers singing, a couple of whitethroats and a reed bunting, but otherwise not much else. The reed bunting was singing from the ripe rape field opposite the Wormiston turnoff. Rape fields are quite good for birds and sedge warblers, whitethroats and now the reed bunting have all probably bred in this field this year. Opposite the rape field there was a flock of curlews feeding in a harvested hay field. This means the first waders are back for the winter already and I expect a few more will turn up on the shore this week as well.

Posted July 17, 2012 by aboutcrail in Sightings

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