February 1st   Leave a comment

There have been reports of one or two little auks from the Firth of Forth all week. I have been looking out from Crail when I could but with no luck until today when I saw a couple from Fife Ness. Little auks are true arctic birds and only retreat to the soft south around Scotland when the gales are sufficiently monumental to blow them down here. And little auks are truly little – imagine something a little bigger than a starling – out in the middle of the stormy Arctic Ocean, or the North Sea today. In a gale they shoot along like bullets with their wings whirring so quickly they blur. My two today were barely visible amongst the wave crests that would have dwarfed a gannet, let alone a little auk. Occasionally thousands of little auks end up around Crail mid-winter but it’s been many years since the last big year. They are a very common bird of the high Arctic with maybe 12 million pairs. They are sensitive to climate change however and increased summer sea temperatures have resulted in lower survival for the adults. I shouldn’t think our recent run of few little auks by Crail has anything to do with global warming just yet, just the luck of the weather systems that develop during the winter. The last couple of winters have certainly lacked the strong easterly gales of previous winters.

Little auk

Little auk

Posted February 1, 2015 by wildcrail in Sightings

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