September 22nd   Leave a comment

A first winter peregrine – to be seen hunting out at Balcomie and Wormiston at the moment

The wind has moved easterly and then north-easterly since Thursday afternoon. As a result a common rosefinch turned up on the May Island yesterday. So today looked fairly hopeful for Crail for some unusual migrants. I started in Denburn but all was quiet apart from the now very many singing robins and the usual flocks of tits and goldcrests. I had a tramp over the stubble fields at Wormiston Farm looking for an early lapland bunting, but again all was fairly quiet. Only a few skylarks and as the two species go together there was little point in searching hard. I did see a peregrine stooping at a small bird over the stubble. Probably one of the skylarks. It went to ground and the peregrine gave up. Skylarks are more usually hunted by merlins and a common response on being chased is for the skylarks to land and freeze. This doesn’t necessarily work against merlins that simply land too and then start running over the ground until they flush up the larks again. But for peregrines it is a winning response. Peregrines never land (or at least I have never seen them land) to pursue prey on the ground. The unsuccessful peregrine flew strongly up and began to soar, gaining height rapidly. I lost it as a dot against the clouds as it drifted towards Cambo.

Balcomie and Fife Ness were much as last weekend. Perhaps more sandwich terns. There was a single whimbrel on the beach at Balcomie. As I got to Fife Ness I met a birder who told me that he had seen a red-breasted flycatcher (a once in every 5 years bird for us) and a yellow-browed warbler (an autumn regular but still only a handful every year) at Balcomie Castle. So the chase was on. I cycled up the Balcomie straight away. I didn’t manage to find the red-breasted flycatcher, even after expanding the search into Kilminning. But they are small and often elusive and it was resighted briefly by someone else later in the afternoon pretty much where it was first seen at the castle. I will try again tomorrow. It should be less windy which will make it easier to find in the tops of the elms and sycamores that it is frequenting. I did refind the yellow-browed warbler. Always a great bird to see and this one was even better than usual. Often they are high above in a dense sycamore and rarely give good views. This one was feeding in the deserted cottage garden just north (directly behind) the castle and the bushes there are only a couple of meters high and without many leaves. I was spoilt by watching the warbler at a distance of a couple of meters, often in full view. At one point it caught a largish caterpillar and so the warbler stopped its flitting to get it under control. And all directly in front of me. I was able to see its lovely large eyestripe, the very faint crown stripe, the double wing bars and its white tipped tertials (innermost wing feathers) just as in the field guides.

Yellow-browed warbler – not today’s bird but John is working on it. He should get that fantastic photo tomorrow if the bird today is still doing the same tomorrow

On my search for the elusive rb fly (that’s birder shorthand for red-breasted flycatcher – much easier to text) I bumped into a flock of long-tailed tits. These are one of those species that is common everywhere else but rare in Crail because of our near island status on the edge of Fife. They are always very noisy and gregarious, staying in their big family parties right through the winter. They were working their way along the sycamores on the road between Kilminning and Crail. They are probably in Crail this evening so look out for them in your garden tomorrow if you are here.

Long-tailed tit – rare in Crail

Posted September 22, 2012 by wildcrail in Sightings

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