Week ending 7th February   Leave a comment

Some weeks at this time of year are slow. The initial rush of birds for the New Year’s list tails off and spring migration still seems a long way off. And the weather has been against me, literally this Sunday when the return bike from Fife Ness took a four times as long as the journey down. The other way round is always more satisfying – for a start it would mean an east wind which makes things much more exciting bird wise, and a head wind when you are freshly heading out is much more bearable.

Balcomie beach was suitably windswept. It didn’t seem to affect the sanderlings much as they raced up and down the beach as usual. The hide at Fife Ness was creaking in the wind as I watched hundreds of auks shoot past in the hour I spent there. Every time I watch from Fife Ness the pattern of birds is different. Today it was guillemots and razorbills, mostly heading north, perhaps on their way back early to breeding cliffs in Shetland or Norway, or perhaps just stirred up by the storm. There was a regular passage of gannets, kittiwakes and fulmars as they gradually return to the north for the spring. But little else – no divers at all this time and only a group of four long-tailed ducks passing as slightly noteworthy.

Sanderling - characteristically dashing along the surf

Sanderling – dashing characteristically along the surf


Pheasants come into Crail from the surrounding fields every so often and one is making the rounds of the gardens of Marketgate at the moment. It’s probably an easier life for a pheasant in town than out – plenty of spilled bird seed from garden feeders to find and few foxes or people who might regard them as a meal (although I suspect road kill is actually one of their biggest sources of mortality). Pheasants don’t have many predators when they are adults – buzzards can kill them and even exceptionally sparrowhawks, but they tend to go for smaller prey. The real pheasant predator is the goshawk which is absent from the area because of past persecution and a general lack of good forest cover that they like. Goshawks are game changers for many other species too: magpies, jays, crows woodpigeons and even sparrowhawks become much less common and much less obvious as they eaten and scared away when goshawks are in the area.

A Crail pheasant in search of the easy life

A Crail pheasant in search of the easy life

Despite the poor weather of the weekend the temperatures went back up this week and it is quite noticeable that the robins, blue tits and great titts are singing much more. It’s a cheering thought that the first blackbird nest might appear in just four weeks if it stays a mild winter to the end.

Posted February 7, 2016 by wildcrail in Sightings

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