January 4th   1 comment

Since New Year’s Day I have been trying to track down a few more species to add to my year list. A walk along Kingsbarn’s Beach on the morning of January 2nd turned up wigeon at the mouth of the burn. They are absent from the Brandyburn mouth this winter but there are about 30 at Cambo at the moment. The pair of stonechats between the burn and the car park are still present. We still need another few mild winters before they get back to the high numbers of 2011 when there was a pair every few hundred meters along the coastal path between Kingsbarns and Anstruther. In the afternoon I was at Cellardyke and found a grey wagtail (at last) and saw a sparrowhawk harrying the linnets and starlings still associated with the now much reduced pig farm there. But still no pied wagtails…

Male stonechat

Male stonechat

Today Chris Smout found a couple of snow buntings in the stubble field in the middle of the airfield. Chris is one of the area’s best bird watchers and naturalists finding many great birds as well as writing beautifully (his recent book on the natural history of the Forth is well worth reading). I duly cycled off at lunchtime to search for the snow buntings: I haven’t seen any in Crail for a couple of years. I zig-zagged across the only stubble field at the airfield and after flushing skylarks and meadow pipits, a single snow bunting flew in front of me and landed close. I had a lovely view before it took off flashing the white patches on its wings that make it so distinctive in flight, and to me like a flurry of snow, although its name comes from its arctic habits and liking of harsh snowy conditions. It circled around the field a couple of times and was joined by a second bird before both flew off high over Crail.

Snow buntings

Snow buntings

I continued my quest for pied wagtails, but there were none at Balcomie Castle. There was a single greylag goose there, in the same place as on New Year’s Day. It started to rain again so I headed home via Crail primary School – a guaranteed spot for pied wagtails. But not today. The phrase “bogey bird” comes to mind. This is an old twitching phrase to refer to any species that you repeatedly go looking for, but fail to see. I think it generally refers to rarer species than pied wagtails, but where are they?

Juvenile shag - a lot have starved over the Christmas period during the almost constant gales and so rough seas

Juvenile shag – a lot have starved over the Christmas period during the almost constant gales and so rough seas

The tides are very high again this weekend. Yesterday the waves were piling into Roome Bay and there were no beaches at all in Crail at the top of the tide. Ironically the redshanks in the harbour had a quieter time than usual during the holidays because people couldn’t get onto the beach because of the high water. Today the sea was much calmer, one of the first calm days for a fortnight. A lot of seabirds have suffered. Certainly over Christmas there were a lot of starving shags that were finding it impossible to fish successfully in the stormy, turbulent waters.

Posted January 4, 2014 by wildcrail in Sightings

One response to “January 4th

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  1. Hi there, we just started to follow your page today as we were heading to Crail to get some photos of the high tide and birds. I photographed what I’m sure was my first ever sighting of Purple Sandpiper on the beach below the beacons. I’d hoped to see them after reading your report so thank you for that, I’ll be out looking for the snow buntings soon no doubt. The Purple Sandpiper we had colour rings, green above both knees and light blue below both knees with a metal ring on the right leg. Any idea where I might find out the location it was ringed at?

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