August 27th   2 comments

Sometimes virtue does bring additional rewards. I stopped to let a golfer tee off undisturbed at the end of Balcomie beach and while I did so I noticed a bird barrelling in from the sea. I looked at it casually thinking it was just a mallard but through my binoculars it turned into a gadwall – a new Crail bird, never mind a new one for the year list. Some birds are a bit embarrassing not to be on the Crail list yet and gadwall is definitely one of these. But as I have said before, Crail lacks freshwater so some common things elsewhere like coots and great crested grebes and indeed gadwalls are pretty rare here. Rarity is very much where you are standing: greenish warblers are commoner in Crail than gadwalls. The Crail list is now up to 223 and the year list 142.

I had a great sea watch from Fife Ness later in the afternoon as the wind swung round to the south. First bird through my telescope was a sooty shearwater – first of the season – with another eight passing in the next couple of hours. The second a manx shearwater and the third was a juvenile long-tailed skua! I identified it straight off – with the characteristic extension at the base of the tail which makes them look long-rumped rather than long tailed, and its slim back end, pot-bellied look – actually long-tailed skuas are one of the most elegant and beautiful seabirds going despite that description. It stayed around for great views over the next two hours, chasing kittiwakes and arctic and common terns in between resting on the sea just off the Ness so I could do a more comprehensive identification to confirm my initial impression. Skuas like raptors are better identified on initial impression because structure is everything and the more you look at something the less clear structure becomes. Normally you don’t get a second chance with long-tailed skuas – they fly by – so it was nice today to have the luxury of seeing all the other characters that identify them. Best of all there were five or so arctic skuas around for a comparison and all were chasing kittiwakes allowing a really nice standardised comparison of size and shape. And there were seabirds everywhere, including quite a few young puffins sitting on the sea. A good afternoon – the first great sea watch of the autumn and three more species to add to the Crail year list, now up to 145.

Dark phase arctic skua at Fife Ness - no. 145 for the Crail year list today

Dark phase arctic skua at Fife Ness – no. 145 for the Crail year list today


Posted August 27, 2016 by wildcrail in Sightings

2 responses to “August 27th

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  1. You’re time travelling again…..

    Barry Farquharson

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