February 20th   Leave a comment

I have been catching redshanks down at the harbour this week during the night. On the low tides there is a chance to put up a net just outside the harbour where the redshanks congregate to feed under the harbour lights. It’s hit and miss and the gales haven’t helped. Over the weekend there were some relatively calm nights where we caught a few. Mostly old friends including two birds 7 or so years old, at least, that more or less live in or around the harbour all winter. But most of the time the redshanks go over the net or leave the harbour in the wrong direction. The compensation on those nights is the soundscape and an insight into the nocturnal life of the shore. Lots of the shorebirds are active at night. There are the kleeps of oystercatchers and the soft whistles of ringed plovers. The redshanks in contrast fly up in front of you if you shine a torch at them but never make a sound at all. It’s like they have a nocturnal mute. Every so often you hear the grumpy kronk from the herons that regularly feed at night as well. Highlights are when there is a moon and skeins of geese come over, or best of all the solemn trumpeting of whooper swans. On Monday night I had a real highlight. I heard a very familiar honking call that at first I couldn’t place. Geese or even cranes passed through my mind before I realised it was a coot. My first coot actually in Crail, passing straight over the harbour, calling every so often. I checked my bird handbook and sure enough, coots migrate at night. In fact they are famous for it. I also found lots of references from wildfowlers about flocks of coots passing at night. I had no idea, but it makes a lot of sense. I have never seen coots pass Crail despite them being common nearby, and the fact that many freshwater species that share the same habitats, that I have seen in Crail, like grebes and ducks, will move from site to site by passing along the coast. Now I know that they do pass – just in the dead of night – honking away as they do.

Coot - a nocturnal visitor to Crail

Coot – a nocturnal visitor to Crail

Posted February 20, 2014 by wildcrail in Sightings

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