March 9th   Leave a comment

At this time of the year I get impatient for the spring to come. In less than 4 weeks I will be looking for the first swallow but I feel ready for them now. The frogs in Denburn also seem to be as impatient. There are three lots of frog spawn in the pond, laid sometime this week. Looking back at the last few years, I see that the frogs aren’t early at all though. This last week has been the time the frog spawn has always appeared, sometimes a week earlier in mild springs (2 years ago) and sometimes a week later in cold springs (like last year). So far, so average for this spring. The herons and rooks are on their nests, having refurbished them this week. I’m not sure if they have eggs yet. The volume of bird song is also increasing every day. Now is the easiest time to get the dawn chorus experience – it is between 06:30 and 07:30 in the morning so not too hard to get up for. You get another shot at coinciding with it when the clocks go forward at the end of the month of course.

I did a circuit around the fields to the north of Crail this Sunday morning, coming back through Wormiston. Late winter business as usual bird wise, but a nice sighting of four roe deer crossing a late stubble field for our version of the Serengeti. I took a great deal of perverse pleasure in seeing the pond nicely reinstated in the fields at the crossroads. The farmer spent a fair bit of effort putting soil into the hollow to get rid of it, but the late winter rain and the inevitable topography of the field have undone the work. With a bit of luck the pond will stay wet through April providing an oasis for migrant waders and some exciting times to look forward to. I also visited the permanent, proper pond at the West Quarry Braes nature reserve nearby. There were four pairs of teal there, the males looking splendid. Teals are nervous and they all took off circling around the fields until I left.

A handsome drake teal

A handsome drake teal

As I returned a blue tit flew past me on its way over the open fields from one patch of trees to the much larger clump at Wormiston. The issue of crossing open spaces can be a big one for woodland birds. Not for most things around Crail of course – any sensitive species have long been lost – but certainly for real forest specialists. It can be a huge issue in the tropics where patches of forest become isolated from each other trapping species as effectively as if you transplanted them onto an island in the middle of the Pacific. For these species, corridors or stepping stones of forest are part of the answer. Even in Fife, the small patches of trees and the rare hedges are still important to allow dispersal of birds and mammals between the remaining islands of good habitat stranded in the sea of fields. We hardly ever get long-tailed tits or bullfinches (that really don’t like crossing open spaces) in Crail because of our relative isolation.

Long-tailed tit - we only get a flock in Crail every other year or so because we are effectively an isolated island to a real forest species

Long-tailed tit – we only get a flock in Crail every other year or so because we are effectively an isolated island to a real forest species

Posted March 9, 2014 by wildcrail in Sightings

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