August 23rd   Leave a comment

The seascape from Crail has changed completely in the last couple of weeks. In the last three days of my usual seawatching from the back of my house in the evening I haven’t seen a single auk. The scurrying puffins of last month have completely gone – I might not see another one until late winter storms push them past Fife Ness. Tens of thousands of puffins make a crowd on the May but they disappear when they spread themselves out into the middle of the North Sea. Today the sea is dominated by gannets and kittiwakes. The juvenile kittiwakes have fledged and a good number are fishing in the Forth with their gentle swooping, almost tern like flight. The gannets won’t fledge seriously for another month so they are passing backwards and forwards in long lines as the puffins were a month ago. And among them, like a shadow or a gull in negative, the arctic skuas are back , wraith-like as they patrol powerfully low over the sea. I have had one every evening for last few days – a juvenile and the rest dark phase adults. Arctic skuas are declining as a breeding species in the UK, probably as climate change makes Britain less suitable for this well named arctic species: great skuas are doing much better though. Ecological change is always about winners as well as losers, although having both species as fairly common breeders is a definite British plus. Arctic skuas are everyday birds in the Forth in August and September, but I never stop getting a thrill when I see one. For a start you need to double check that they are not one of the rarer other skua species (both long-tailed and pomarine skuas can occur too) and then their falcon like domination of their airspace makes whatever species of skua it is well worth watching.

Arctic skua - Johnny Depp eat your heart out, this is the real thing

Arctic skua – Johnny Depp eat your heart out, this is the real thing

There have been a few flocks of lapwings turning up in the fields around Crail in the last week. They are obvious when they stop in a stubble field or when a flock gets up in the air, flashing like huge black and white butterflies, but in a field of brassicas their green backs make them disappear. I had a lovely game of “where’s lapwing” in a cabbage field at Balcomie this morning. One of the cabbages started moving, resolving itself into a lapwing on closer look, and then its neighbour, and its neighbour and so on as I got my eye in – more lapwings than cabbages in the end.

A flock of migrating lapwings - several in the fields around Crail just now

A flock of migrating lapwings – several in the fields around Crail just now

Posted August 23, 2014 by wildcrail in Sightings

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