Week ending June 30th   Leave a comment


Herring gull chick on the High Street trying not to be noticed after falling from the roof above. If it can avoid people and cars its parents will keep looking after it.

Although it was a late spring and many birds started breeding 2-3 weeks late this year, many species have now finished for the summer. The adults may still be feeding fledged young like tits and thrushes but they won’t be nesting again until next spring. Some birds will keep on making new breeding attempts, some for two or three months still – I have seen house martins and wood pigeons building new nests this week and they might be breeding even until October. And some species will still have young for 2-3 months more like the fulmars at Castle Walk and the gannets on Bass Rock. And of course the herring gulls are still breeding around Crail. The next couple of weeks will be full of apparently lost and deserted chicks wandering around the streets below where their nest was. The gulls often nest between chimney pots and the young have no real space to wander around. So after a while they take a tumble onto the ground below. Most survive and then the parents will find and feed them wherever they end up. In more natural situations like the May Island, herring gulls nest in colonies on flattish ground. When the chicks hatch they wander around the colony, or they are forced to move to a new area because of predation risk from other gulls – often the very much larger great black-backed gulls. So a parent off foraging for several hours is used to not finding its chicks in exactly the same place it left them. In urban situations this means that a chick that falls from its nesting roof will still be found and looked after by its parents. And if it can avoid the dangers of a terrestrial existence – dogs, cars and well intentioned people kidnapping them – then it will be likely to fledge. I know that the herring gulls cause mixed feelings around Crail, but we should celebrate their being able to thrive amongst us when so many species do not.

house martin

House Martin on the ground to collect mud for a new nesting attempt. Have a look at the feathered short legs only just adequate for walking – nest building will be pretty much the only time in a year that it has to walk


There are common terns to be seen around the harbour and Roome Bay at the moment. They on first glance might look like gulls but soon stand out because they hover and dive into the water which gulls never do. Telling arctic and common terns apart is much trickier but it’s a fair bet that any tern close in at Crail is a common tern. Out at Balcomie or Fife Ness, however, it’s a different story and then you are more likely to see an arctic tern. Both species are fishing to feed chicks on the May Island just now.

On most days this week I have seen manx shearwaters passing Crail. Almost always going east out of the Forth. They carry out foraging trips that involve circumnavigating Britain over a few days. A manx shearwater I see passing Crail might even be nesting in Wales. While watching the manxies I have been looking out for storm petrels that we get for a few days every 3-4 years about this time of year. And then later on in the month I might hope to see sooty shearwaters – much more reliable than the storm petrels – but some years we only get a few past Crail and in others we have a few past every hour for several weeks. July through to September is the best time to seabird watch in the Forth as the residents like the puffins, gannets and kittiwakes get joined by the passage shearwaters and skuas. It’s an exciting time, but one that will pass most people by unless you have a telescope and put in some serious time sea watching. Not for everyone then, but for me it’s one of the delights of living in Crail and particularly so because I can do it from my house.

fulmar 3jpg


On Saturday I saw 15-20 bottle-nose dolphins passing east past Saucehope. They were close enough in that my six year old daughter could see them. It’s always very difficult pointing out dolphins or whales to anyone because they pop up for a brief instance, there are few landmarks to use as pointers and they keep on moving so you never know when or where they are going to appear next. You have to learn to move your gaze ahead of your last sighting and to try not to focus on the particular bit of sea where you last saw them – easy to explain, but hard to carry out. It’s against human nature to spot something and then deliberately look somewhere else to see it again.

Posted June 30, 2013 by wildcrail in Sightings

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