December 8th   Leave a comment

The mighty worm hunter

The mighty worm hunter

The big field between Hammer Inn and Crail was being ploughed today. As well as the usual explosion of gulls following the plough there were three buzzards. These mighty hunters were happy terrorising the earthworms. The gulls were keeping their distance despite: last winter at least one of these buzzards was specialising in killing black-headed gull on the fields. Raptors are fickle and attack what is easiest. Buzzards really typify this. It makes them cursed on pheasant rearing estates that provide thousands of dippy young prey that are impossible for a buzzard to ignore. But in other circumstances they can be blessed as they account for hundreds of rabbits, rats or squirrels. I grew up in the south-east of England where there were no buzzards because of persecution and poisoning. It was brilliant in my early twenties when they started recolonizing from the west. Now they are everywhere in the UK and every day is made more special by their presence, soaring above the fields and woods, or lumbering after the plough. I hope it won’t be too long before we have red kites doing the same around Crail.

Buzzard following the plough

Buzzard following the plough

The goldeneyes are back in Roome Bay, diving in the surf for almost anything from molluscs to worms to fish. One adult male, an immature male and three or four females today. I was watching them for a while this afternoon trying to work out whether they synchronise their diving with each other like mergansers and goosanders. Probably not, suggesting that they are after small invertebrates rather than fish that would benefit from a group attack.

Male goldeneye

Male goldeneye

I saw three little auks this morning fluttering past Crail on their way into the Forth. These tiny seabirds are only blackbird size and wobble from side to side as they fly like puffins but even more so. They are erratic from Crail in the winter. Sometimes we can have thousands blown past with north-easterly storms, other times a few past like today with no apparent cause, and in some winters, none at all. They hardly ever come in close and most of the time they are a technical – I know they are little auks because they are tiny and their wobbly characteristic flight. But it’s not quite the same as seeing them up close when their subtle blacks and whites make a very beautiful bird: a zig-zag of white on their black wings and their white eyelids add to the effect. Seeing them close up is always tempered by the fact that this only really happens when little auks are in trouble and blown inland after severe storms. Bizarrely one of the best ways to see a little auk close up is to look for them on a very stormy rainy night around the back roads of Crail. The little auks seem to get confused as they get blown over the peninsula and occasionally try to land on the wet tarmac. They are then dazzled by the lights of the cars. If you think you have seen a little penguin in your headlights it may not have been your imagination after all.

Little auk scooting past Crail

Little auk scooting past Crail

Posted December 8, 2013 by wildcrail in Sightings

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