Week ending February 21st   Leave a comment

I am still stuck on 99 species for the year. Either the weather has been too poor to find birds or too settled so everything is staying put before the spring change. Which is definitely on the way at least. Just walking along Marketgate to Denburn first thing in the morning you will hear song thrush, chaffinch, dunnock, wren and blue and great tits singing their hearts out; on Saturday evening there was also a blackbird singing beautifully in the dusk calm at Balcomie. Further out in the fields the skylarks are also singing now. Their ethereal trilling from high above was a constant background to my walks over the weekend.

An opportunistic fox trying to be a blue tit

An opportunistic Crail fox trying to be a blue tit

The last stubble fields are being ploughed now. The fields which have been harbouring the finches and buntings all winter just east of Pinkerton are now bare earth. On Friday there may have been as many as 15 corn buntings there with the yellowhammers and linnets as the stubble got smaller and smaller. I’m not sure what their options are now – there is still the big stubble field by the Balcomie for them so they may just move over two fields. One species’ problem is another’s opportunity of course, and the gulls and buzzards were enjoying the ploughing.

There has been a smell of fox around the back of the graveyard and Denburn for the last few weeks. John was lucky enough to have one in his garden this week. It had come in to scrump on the nuts from his feeder. First clearing up the left overs but then becoming a bit bolder and attempting some direct harvesting. I’m very envious. The only mammal clearing up the bird food in my garden is my small terrier.

Cormorant gaining its white breeding plumage this week

Cormorant gaining its white breeding plumage this week

Balcomie and Fife Ness remains similar to the last couple of weeks. I watched the sanderling flock dodge the dog walkers on Balcomie Beach: it is a quiet beach so they only lose about 1 minute in 20 (plus the energy they use in avoidance) at worst. They run around so much anyway that it doesn’t seem such a bother to them. The more sedate dunlin and ringed plovers seem much more disturbed. At sea it was auks moving north again. On Sunday it was almost entirely razorbills. They breed a little bit earlier than guillemots. Most are getting their black hoods and patterned bills ready for breeding. A few of the cormorants were also showing signs of the white faces they gain for the spring. The gannet numbers are still low but should start picking up now to the thousands that can be seen daily from Crail during the summer.

Denburn is full of “vegetable snow” from the masses of snowdrops out just now. There’s some debate about whether snowdrops are native to Britain but they have been here so long and planted so widely that it would be unthinkable of a late winter (or more recently mid-winter) without their optimistic hope for the coming spring. So many of the plants (and many of the animals) we see aren’t native. We get very worried about introduced species because gradually local variation gets replaced with one global set of super competitors adapted to the chaos we cause, but there are many non-native species in Britain that we would be poorer without.

A mostly undisturbed dunlin on Balcomie Beach

A mostly undisturbed dunlin on Balcomie Beach

Posted February 21, 2016 by wildcrail in Sightings

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