October 27th   Leave a comment

Lots of handsome redwings passing through today

Lots of handsome redwings passing through today

No sooner had I written off this autumn than the wind went round to the east yesterday. With the mist and drizzle today the conditions were reasonable for some migrants. Sure enough, a black redstart was reported from Balcomie this morning. I went out after lunch and although I missed the redstart, I found a ring ouzel, a jack snipe and a flock of 30 brambling around the garden at Balcomie Castle, and a couple of woodcock down at the Patch at Fife Ness. There were flocks of redwings everywhere and the occasional flock of fieldfares. In short, lots of migrants and so the possibility of something really special – that crucial ingredient of hope makes for the best birding days.

The jack snipe was today’s best bird. Only my second for Crail. They are a common autumn migrant but exceedingly shy and skulking and fond of marshy areas which are in short supply around here. My first jack snipe was flushed by my dog on Kingsbarns Beach several years’ ago and today’s was crouched in a flowerbed! The normal response of a jack snipe is to crouch down and rely on its exceedingly good camouflage amongst the rank wetland vegetation it usually inhabits. Normally they don’t move even if you nearly step on them and so escape notice. I suspect this bird was somewhat lost, but sufficiently with it to realise its camouflage was not going to work in a flowerbed. It popped straight up in front of me as I chased the ring ouzel around the garden at Balcomie, zooming away to find a better place to hide. I just had time to appreciate its small size, stripy back and shortish bill to confirm the identification. Its larger relative, the woodcock, was doing the same thing down at the Patch, but they always fly at about 10 meters and usually with a lot of noise as they beat through the woodland they inhabit like woodpigeons. Consequently I see woodcocks and lots of them every autumn even though their camouflage is just as good as the jack snipes. There should be lots of woodcocks around Crail tomorrow morning as the easterlies and rain continues – look out for brown long-billed birds shooting away explosively from you in Denburn or Beech Walk Park.

Jack snipe demonstrating that camouflage only really works if you select an appropriate background

Jack snipe demonstrating that camouflage only really works if you select an appropriate background

The ring ouzel was also a good bird – my first for this year in Crail although my last was a week ago in the mountains of Catalonia where they winter. Today’s bird is off course but probably more likely on its way to North Africa – Algeria or Tunisia – for the winter. Its stone breaking chacking call echoing around the walled garden at Balcomie seemed to fit the grey misty day perfectly.

An October Ring Ouzel - a much better view than the bird today which was very shy

An October Ring Ouzel – a much better view than the bird today which was very shy

Posted October 27, 2015 by wildcrail in Sightings

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