December 22nd   Leave a comment

I went for a walk on Kingsbarn’s beach this morning. For the first time ever my family had it to ourselves. Perhaps the other things to do on the Sunday before Christmas, and the very cold wind had something to do with it. We timed it perfectly between the showers and had a sunny walk to the end and back before, finally, others joined us. I think Kingsbarn’s Beach is one of the best things we have on our doorstep. Even if you have little interest in the natural world, you can’t fail to enjoy a walk along it, whatever the time of year. And if you do look about you, and notice the other things using the shore and the sea then your walk will be all the more special.

At this time of year there are a lot of things going on. This morning the usual quartet of sea ducks were there: red-breasted mergansers closest in, then goldeneyes and eiders diving in slightly deeper water and finally, beyond them, long-tailed ducks. Every one of them glowing in the low sunlight and flashing black and white as they bobbed. There were a few red-throated divers out with the long-tailed ducks. In some years there can be 20 or so off the beach, but they seem to be less common this year. I have seen plenty passing Crail this week, but not many actually sitting on the sea. Well beyond the ducks and divers were large flocks of kittiwakes all along the horizon. They are usually much further out at this time of year and I associate such big flocks with Fife Ness in late August and September. And skuas as well, of course. As I thought this today I saw a dark brown shape shearwatering on the extreme horizon: even through my telescope it was tricky but I was fairly sure it was an arctic skua, despite never having seen one in Scotland in December before. They should all be in warmer waters or even the south Atlantic by now. Luckily it reached one of the flocks of kittiwakes and then started chasing so I could get a size comparison and a better impression of the tail shape as it banked and dived in pursuit. And then I noticed the gannets passing very far out – not the September crowds true but also unseasonally far north. I’ve no idea what this means. Climate change, chance, freak weather or me just being more observant this year. It makes life interesting though and was a nice reprise of the hectic late summer seabird days that make living in Crail so much fun for me.

Arctic skua chasing a kittiwake - these are September birds and much closer in than today's action

Arctic skua chasing a kittiwake – these are September birds and much closer in than today’s action

Robin - Happy Christmas

Robin – Happy Christmas

It being Christmas I think I should mention robins. As I chopped wood this afternoon, the first year robin that is resident in my front garden for the winter was foraging companionably around my feet. Hoping I would disturb insects and slugs as I scurfled around. My log pile is not a bad bet for a wintering robin – full of spiders and grubs, and with plenty of crevices for safe hideaways and even for roosting. I put some live mealworms out for it as an early Christmas present and to thank this little scrap of Scandinavia for transforming my fairly bleak and lifeless front garden.

Posted December 22, 2013 by wildcrail in Sightings

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