Archive for November 2012

November 30th   Leave a comment

There have been a lot of pink-footed geese passing over Crail with the cold weather of the last couple of days. With the full moon they have been going over quite a bit at night too. There’s something magical about hearing a passing flock of pink-feet honking away invisibly on a frosty night with the moon shining off the sea.

Pink-footed geese "honk-honk-wink-wink"

Pink-footed geese “honk-honk-wink-wink”

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Posted November 30, 2012 by aboutcrail in Sightings

November 28th   Leave a comment

I walked up besides the fields just north of Crail this lunchtime. It was a beautiful day but I only saw five birds. A pair of linnets, a couple of common gulls and a long-tailed tit. Not a great list and indicative of just how intensive and barren our local farmland has become. If you have been up the St Andrews road recently you will probably have noticed that another hedgerow was dug up recently just outside of Crail so that three small pasture fields could become a larger arable field. Another few pairs of farmland birds will have gone too. At least the long-tailed tit was a good find, although they seem to be popping up everywhere around Crail just now. And as I walked back into Crail the birds reappeared of course. Some long-tailed ducks passing the harbour cheered me up again.

Long-tailed ducks passing Crail

Posted November 28, 2012 by aboutcrail in Sightings

Week ending 25th November   Leave a comment

Crail is much quieter. We’ve slipped into winter. There haven’t been any reports of the olivaceous warbler for a few days after its marathon stint down at Kilminning. I’d like to think it is on its way to East Africa now, but suspect the rotten weather of the last week finally did for it. Although we are now at the end of November, the expected dryer weather of the winter hasn’t appeared either. Another really wet week in a really wet year. At least this year’s rainfall total will be record breaking for Crail – even if it doesn’t rain any more from now until the New Year.

What do we have around Crail in winter? We have a lot of starlings. They come into Crail to roost every evening and flocks of hundreds feed in the fields between Crail and Fife Ness. Starlings create mixed feelings for people. Less appreciated when then are dominating bird tables, but undeniably beautiful as punctuation marks in the winter sky.

Starlings in a winter symphony

The other thing we have around Crail in winter, as everywhere on the coast does, and so often overlooked, are the gulls. Britain has millions of gulls that winter here and is perhaps the best place in Europe. All of them – even the common ones – herring, common, black-headed, lesser black-backed and great black-backed gulls, all winter around our coasts in globally important numbers. They are just as significant as our wintering goose flocks. But like the starlings, gulls create mixed feelings. I am always struck by how fantastic gulls are when I return from abroad because most places don’t have huge wheeling gull flocks, keeping every bit of shore alive with activity, or filling the otherwise empty fields. And watching the gulls following the plough on a sunny day is undoubtedly a winter wildlife spectacle. But gulls often just blend into the background and are taken for granted, or worse regarded as a noisy pest. Crail wouldn’t be half as interesting without its gulls and we are looking after them for large parts of Europe during the winter.

Common gull

Posted November 25, 2012 by aboutcrail in Sightings

November 21st   Leave a comment

I had my first woodcock of the winter today. It burst up from my feet as I came up the path by the Brandyburn. They are late this year, or I missed the main influx while I was away the last two weeks. If they are coming in now then the next couple of days will see them in many of the back gardens of Crail

Woodcock

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There were two female common scoters on the sea out from Castle Walk this morning. Common scoters are common flying by but for some reason the sea is not quite right for them to feed off Crail. These two didn’t stay long and soon headed off further into the Forth. We have our resident winter ducks though. The goldeneyes are back again for the winter in Roome Bay, and I counted 22 mallards on the boating pond. And don’t forget the eiders.

Female common scoter

Posted November 21, 2012 by aboutcrail in Sightings

November 3rd   Leave a comment

It felt wintery today, damp and cold at the start with a cold wind from the west, although it brightened up later. Things have imperceptibly shifted from the excitement of the autumn migration to the less frantic winter. I had a single adult little gull past Crail in the morning, and the olivaceous warbler is still hanging around at Kilminning and still drawing in a crowd. My birding otherwise today was fairly quiet. Denburn had its winter usuals, being full of the thin calls of the tit and blackbird flocks. About the half the leaves are gone so it is much easier to see things there. No woodcocks as yet but any day soon.

Little gull – one past Crail this morning, but any excuse for a picture of one of Crail’s best regular “specials”

I am off to Nigeria this evening for my usual annual trip. Off to join our birds in their second home. I will be seeing swallows, house martins and whitethroats tomorrow. Considering the weather this week I can see why they might travel so far.

Posted November 3, 2012 by aboutcrail in Sightings

November 2nd   Leave a comment

Following the wigeon, there were long-tailed ducks moving into the Forth past Crail this morning. They are a real sign of winter. The temperature has certainly dropped this week to only a few degrees overnight. As the long-tails are coming in so the gannets are leaving. They are now becoming quite scarce with most of them already down off the coast of Portugal and Spain.

Long-tailed duck

I was on Kingsbarns Beach at lunchtime. It was unusually completely deserted after the heavy rain of the morning. It’s a beautiful beach but even more so when you have it to yourself and the birds. There were at least two stonechat by the middle bridge and some red-breasted mergansers in the surf. As I left a short-eared flew up from the rough grass field just to the north of the road to the car park before perching on a fence post. Close enough to appreciate its kohl surrounded yellow eyes. It was soon chased off by a couple of carrion crows, an occupational hazard for a day-flying owl.

Short-eared owl

Posted November 2, 2012 by aboutcrail in Sightings

November 1st   Leave a comment

The tides have been very high this week. It’s a full moon but also there has been a big swell pushing up the height. All the seaweed has been pushed up the beaches by the high water and the seaweed maggots and flies have been pushed out too. Roome Bay has been full of gulls as a consequence. Hundreds of black-headed gulls were there this afternoon swimming in the breaking waves to pick up all the displaced insects. The local mallard flock was doing the same, with a single male wigeon there too.

Wigeon – there is one in Roome Bay -a lot have been passing Crail for the last couple of days coming into the Forth

Posted November 2, 2012 by aboutcrail in Sightings

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