December 16th   Leave a comment

There are very few bits of open fresh water near Crail. The largest is the reservoir up by Kellie Law, just northwest of Carnbee. I suppose it is called Carnbee loch but it doesn’t have a name on the OS map. It felt like a proper loch today with about 100 teal there, a cormorant, a goldeneye, tens of mallards and wigeon, a few tufted duck and moorhen. It’s my only regular site for tufted duck, otherwise I might only see one every few years passing by Crail along the coast. Tufted duck are common in any bits of deepish fresh water. They are divers rather than dabblers (think of eiders versus mallards). There are plenty more, along with grebes and pochards that also like to dive, as you go further east to Kilconquhar Loch, which also has reeds and woods around the edge too making it the best place to go in the area for freshwater birds. I wish Kilconquhar Loch was closer to Crail although I think Carnbee has potential. It’s a bit out of the way though and I don’t think many people check it regularly.

There were also a couple of stonechat up at the loch, which makes the third pair I now know about in the Crail area. I’m glad they are coming back and as long as we don’t have another very cold winter they should continue to become more common. It has been cold the last couple of weeks. Today is the first day that the temperature has come up above 5 degrees – up to 8 today – and it makes a huge difference. Everything is a bit less frantic. I should think the stonechats are relieved.

We don’t have the large numbers of pink-footed geese that we have had in previous winters. This time last year there were thousands around Anstruther. Today I only had the occasional flock of 50 or so between Crail and St Monans. There is still plenty of time this winter, of course, for them to come back.

As I came out of Crail on the St Andrews road this morning I saw a female merlin perched on one of the remaining trees. It had that stillness and fixed stare of a hunting bird. Sure enough it started bobbing its head and then launched itself into a very rapid attacking dash two fields away. I couldn’t see what it was attacking until a flock of about 60 linnets flew up from the middle of the newly ploughed field. Falcon eyesight is notoriously good but this seemed impressive even so. Many of the apparently empty fields have birds in them that are invisible to me. Unless they fly I will not notice them. A bird of prey probably actually has similar limitations, but perched high in a tree, any movement at all is noticed and the raptor can then just keep an eye on the general area until the best time to attack. It probably doesn’t see or select its victim until it gets much closer, and may not even do so if the flock gets up into the air well in advance. I don’t know if the merlin was successful because I lost it before it got to the linnets. I suspect it missed because I didn’t see a chase and it just kept on going to the next opportunity.



I had another waxwing in the garden first thing this morning. There is a berry bush in the garden next door which had attracted it. It is turning into a very good winter for waxwings in Crail – three sightings in my garden in the last two weeks for example.

The sea was fantastically rough with the storm of Friday and the remaining swell on Saturday. This was coincident with very high tides so that a lot of debris was washed up. At Cellardyke by the caravan park and the pig farm this morning it looked a bit like a battlefield. Huge rocks and bits of concrete washed up tens of meters above the normal high tide line. And lots of lobster creels. There were about 30 redshanks feeding on the wet mud of the pig farm field enjoying the new temporary mudflat.

Posted December 16, 2012 by wildcrail in Sightings

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