Week ending March 1st   Leave a comment

Spring is definitely on the way. The grey herons out at Cambo that nest in the pines by the main road, have been busy building nests and loafing in the field opposite. The rooks at Wormiston are really busy as well getting their nests ready. The amount of bird song first thing, even on some of the frosty mornings this week, has been increasing. Song thrush song is now common joining the robins’ and the first dunnocks started seriously singing this week. Out in the fields the skylarks are chasing each other and are singing constantly. It is still cold but with the lighter evenings and the likelihood of it warming up any day it’s easy to imagine the first chiff-chaff and sand martin turning up in a few weeks’ time.

A local badger

A local badger

I was reminded of the nocturnal wild Crail on Tuesday morning when I passed a dead badger on the road to St Andrews. Last weekend on my back to Crail from the south of England there were also several dead badgers that had been hit by cars. The main mating season for badgers is February to May so I suspect these were males taking risks – extending their range with the hope of getting lucky. Just after passing the Crail badger I then saw another nocturnal animal but in much happier circumstances: a large dog fox crossing a ploughed field by Kingsbarns. It was trotting along in the open quite happy, with a lovely bushy red coat and brush – a fantastic Mr Fox.

The numbers of redshank this year on the beaches of Crail this winter are the lowest I have ever seen. A lot of redshanks didn’t make it back this year. I have been hoping that they were just a bit late, but now it is March and the season is nearly over I have to accept they aren’t ever coming back. I only have 10 colour-ringed redshanks now instead of the usual 20 at the end of the winter. The total Crail population is probably less than 50 and we have had over 70 in some winters. Bird populations do go up and down so I’ll keep counting and hoping for a return to usual next winter. Nevertheless I think there was a bad breeding season last year or much lower survival for the adults or juveniles during their migrations.

There are a few red-throated divers out from Roome Bay at the moment. Look for large pale cormorant-like birds. If you get a close up view they are easy to tell as divers – then it is a question of which species of diver. Red-throats are the easiest to identify because they have relatively slight bills with a distinctive uptilt to it. If you get a spectacularly close view then they have scary bright red eyes!

A red-throated diver close up - an uptilted bill and bright red eyes

A red-throated diver close up – an uptilted bill and bright red eyes


I did my favourite circuit on Sunday morning – a cycle to the north of Crail, then to Wormiston, Balcomie, Fife Ness and back via Kilminning and Sauchope. It was still fairly quiet – only just the start of spring. The shore along Balcomie is great for ducks at the moment – lots of mallards, wigeon, teal and of course eiders. They are in noisy groups with the males displaying like mad to the females. It was a lovely bright day on Sunday although the gale made it difficult to bird watch. I found a weird part of the beach where I must have been in an eddy creating a mini-eye to the storm. I stood in my own magical patch of complete calm watching the birds zip by. I had to leave it eventually and engage with the wind again as I headed back to Crail. I passed the sanderlings on Balcomie Beach – a count of 33 which is about what it has been all winter. For them spring isn’t until June.

One of the colourful wigeon out at Balcomie this Sunday

One of the colourful wigeon out at Balcomie this Sunday

Posted March 1, 2015 by wildcrail in Sightings

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