Week ending 27th March   Leave a comment

The sun always seems to shine at Easter but it was close run thing this weekend. Saturday brought a southerly gale in making it feel very wintry. This morning the wind continued to make it feel raw but in a sheltered spot, with a few daffodils in sight it seemed like spring was here. No sign of any spring migrants yet. It is still a bit early but there were chiff-chaffs, sand martins and the odd osprey reported elsewhere in Fife this weekend. I checked out Kilminning on Sunday morning and it was still winter quiet. The buzzards that breed at the top by the hangers of the airfield have been busy. There were neat piles of feathers from woodpigeons and black-headed gulls on the ground around the nesting tree, along with little drifts of rabbit fur from some of less fortunate Easter bunnies. I also had a look around Balcomie, my first proper “migrant” look of the season. Good early migrants are ring ouzels and black redstarts and Balcomie is great for both of them. I had a very optimistic hope for a hoopoe – the Crail early spring migrant that has turned up about 5 times in the early spring period since I have lived here but each time only seen by one or two lucky people before it moves on. Hoopoes are notorious for turning up in non-bird watchers gardens and by dint of them looking like an exotic escape from a zoo they get noticed but then only frustratingly mentioned in casual conversation a few days later – “oh I had a strange bird in my garden a couple of days ago…” Far too late for me. Most things you can dismiss as misidentifications, but not hoopoes which are as distinctive as puffins. So – please let me know as soon as possible if/when it happens again this spring.

Speaking of puffins. They are a bird of spring and I saw my first one on Sunday passing by Fife Ness on its way into the Forth (no. 104 for the Crail year list). Not quite in its full summer breeding splendour but not quite the dirty-looking, shrunken-billed bird of the winter. After an hour of razorbills streaming past, the puffin looked like a bee buzzing along the waves. Puffin numbers will now start to build up over April for the start of breeding on the May Island, most aptly in May. You don’t really see them regularly close to Crail until later in the summer when they start feeding chicks unless there is a good wind on. The southerly winds kept a lot of seabirds in close this weekend: kittiwakes, gannets and as I mentioned, razorbills, mostly with occasional guillemots, fulmars, common scoters and red-throated divers past. Meadow pipits were also going north along the shore, looking far too tiny against the breakers to be able to get anywhere. But get there they do – small birds just keep flying north at a steady 45 km an hour until they are there (or they have to refuel). I should think the meadow pipits were loving the tail wind this weekend particularly as they turned the corner at Fife Ness to head due north.

Puffins gathering at the May Island prior to breeding

Puffins gathering at the May Island prior to breeding

I looked for frog spawn in the Denburn this weekend but there was no sign. The burn is so silted up that is barely a pond anymore. It’s a perennial problem, the fields above Denburn have no vegetation on them during the winter and the burn gets full of soil after any heavy rain. There is no solution except to keep digging it out. The early frog spawn in Denburn never seemed to have any success anyway. There is plenty that does well in the farm pond up on main road at Cambo and the pond at Wormiston looks great too. But there are not many ponds locally and we should probably organise a proper village pond somewhere in Crail, big enough for toads, frogs, newts and a moorhen or two.

Everything is singing now. At dusk blackbirds, song thrushes and robins are all competing for best singer and all three species will be building nests now.

Robin - one of the birds singing their hearts out just now

Robin – one of the birds singing their hearts out just now

Posted March 27, 2016 by wildcrail in Sightings

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