June 28th   Leave a comment

I got an exciting phone call from one of my daughter’s friends yesterday. She had just seen a red squirrel in her back garden – and she lives on Marketgate right in the centre of Crail! Red squirrels must be dispersing at the moment – the young of the year spreading out to new territories. There was one crossing the road at Fairmount a week ago that caused a small pileup as a Crail resident braked to avoid it (thankfully no-one hurt including the squirrel). Red squirrels are so scarce in the East Neuk that this might even be the same squirrel that has now made it to Crail. The spooky thing is that the red squirrel of yesterday was in the garden next door to the Crailer that had the accident. I suspect they will have felt they were have post-traumatic stress flashbacks if they saw the red squirrel crossing their garden too. Anyway, look out for it in Denburn. Red squirrels are pretty distinctive, being reddish rather than grey, they have more tufty tails and the real clincher is they have tufty ears – the last feature cleverly noted by my daughter’s friend.

Young red squirrel on the lookout for a new home

Young red squirrel on the lookout for a new home

There is a grey heron sitting in the flat topped tree directly behind the kirk as if it is trying to nest. The last time this happened was the year we had very bad gales at the start of June too and a lot of larger birds nesting in trees – herons included – lost their nests. I got very excited thinking that perhaps the herons would start nesting each year in the kirkyard but nothing came of it. Still here is one doing the same thing again under the same circumstances. It is much too late for a heron to start nesting again this year but herons are long lived birds and I suspect they do a lot of considering before they decide to shift nesting site. Perhaps next spring…It would be great to have a heronry in Denburn.

The black-headed gulls have been returning to the shore this week. They have finished breeding and the adults, though still with their dark brown hoods, have come back from the inland lochs to where they spend most of their year. The juveniles will arrive in Crail in the next few weeks. They take longer to get here because they don’t know where they are going just yet. The young of the year – like the red squirrels – take their time dispersing because finding a good place to live for the rest of their lives is a fairly important decision. Most animals don’t shift from the place they decide to live in (or end up living in) in the first year of their life unless they absolutely have to – it’s better the devil you know in many cases, even if conditions where they live deteriorate.

Curlews are another recent return to the shore. They are all adults again, although most will have failed breeding rather than finished breeding to be back in Crail so soon. There is another story here, for another time in detail – but curlews really are disappearing before our eyes as a breeding species in Britain. They are really long lived so even though many pairs are getting no chicks off at all they are still relatively common on the rocky shores around Crail. I have a curlew ring on my binocular strap that I picked up from a dead curlew on the other side of the Firth of Forth in 2004. It was from an adult curlew that had been ringed in the mid-1980s exactly where I found the dead bird. Crail still has many such old timer curlews returning every winter but they will getting fewer and fewer.

Curlew - back around Crail now after breeding

Curlew – back around Crail now after breeding

Posted June 28, 2015 by wildcrail in Sightings

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