February 1st   Leave a comment

This morning the sun rose. Perhaps not the biggest Wild Crail news, but we haven’t seen the sun properly for two weeks now. It was a beautiful Crail winter’s day until mid-morning. Then the wind got up again and it clouded over: back to the standard issue dull grey that has marked this year so far. The rainfall for Crail this January was over 70 mm. A typical month in Crail has about 20 mm of rain, so January was officially pretty wet for us. Checking back for last year I notice that we also had about 76 mm last January, although the year before was more “typical” with only 15 mm. Still, this is nothing like what has fallen in the south-west of England, with 500 mm in some places.

It was fairly bracing out at Balcomie this morning. There were the usual few long-tailed ducks diving in the big swell. I flushed a woodcock from the grass behind the beach at Fife Ness. Whether this was a bird in from the continent because of much colder weather there, or from further inland in Fife for the same reason I couldn’t say. Damp weather suits woodcocks and our winter has been fairly mild so I think probably the former. The wind made it uncomfortable to do more than glance out to sea. I saw a pair of dark-bellied brent geese fly past the Ness followed by a pair of velvet scoters. Both nice birds to see and my first for the year. But it wasn’t a day to seawatch and I headed back to Crail after a few minutes.

Velvet scoter passing Fife Ness

Velvet scoter passing Fife Ness

This afternoon the tide was spectacularly high. Six meters or so and with the very strong southerly wind blowing the waves right up the shore. Even an hour before high tide Roome Bay beach and Harbour Beach were getting completely covered. The redshanks and oystercatchers were spending most of the time in flight dodging the waves before eventually giving up and roosting on higher ground well above the beach. I was pleased to see two redshanks down at the harbour in with the flock. A new bird ringed on Thursday, looking very handsome with its new double black, double lime combination rings. It is an adult and I think one of the unringed harbour regulars that has been evading me for the last few years. It’s an individual now and I will be able to keep track of it. The second bird was Red-Yellow/Blue-Green. This was one of the first birds I ever caught in the harbour, in October 2007: I’ve caught it 4 times since then. It was already an adult and it has been in the harbour or nearby ever since – that’s 8 years old at least. I’m rooting for this bird to survive another 15 years. It’s a big bird so probably Icelandic. On Thursday night it was very heavy even considering its large size, suggesting that feeding is not too good at the moment and it has laid down some fat reserves as insurance.

RYBG - one of my oldest redshanks that I recaught last Thursday night. It was scampering about again on Harbour Beach this afternoon

RYBG – one of my oldest redshanks that I recaught last Thursday night. It was scampering about again on Harbour Beach this afternoon


The big waves on Roome Bay attracted the usual large group of gulls. The wind was so strong that the black-headed gulls were kiting into the wind with their legs dangling to patter on the water’s surface for stability just like storm petrels. Among them was a single immature little gull doing the same. This will have been blown in from further out to sea. There may be hundreds of little gulls wintering near Crail but they are usually kilometres out.

A fulmar at home in the rough seas of today

A fulmar at home in the rough seas of today

Posted February 1, 2014 by wildcrail in Sightings

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