October 2nd   Leave a comment

I have been checking out Kilminning and Balcomie for the last two weeks without much success but today I found a lapland bunting and my first yellow-browed warbler of the season, and all is forgiven.

There is a newly sprouted field of winter wheat on the east side of the lower part of Kilminning that was full of birds this morning. Skylarks, yellowhammers, linnets, greenfinches, tree sparrows, meadow pipits, lapwings and golden plovers. It was a treat having so much to look at – and easy to see in the strong sunlight and no wind this morning. I was thinking about possible twites and lapland buntings when, sure enough, I heard the characteristic rattling “tick ticky” of a Lapland bunting. Only a brief snatch but enough to focus my attention and to begin to search the field more systematically. As I watched a wheatear I had just found a few minutes later a lapland bunting flew up from nearby, making the complete call as it went low over my head – a dry rattle ending a “chew”. A very welcome no. 154 for the Crail year list. They are here every autumn on passage, sometimes in good numbers, but usually hard to find as they favour the middle of big fields and so not always a certainty for a year list.

Lapland bunting - no. 154 for the Crail year list this morning

Lapland bunting – no. 154 for the Crail year list this morning

The geese have dried up this weekend. A few small flocks of pink-footed geese flew over Kilminning now and then as I searched the trees for warblers but the big numbers of Wednesday to Friday have gone. I heard some deep honking in the distance and ignored it as the local canada geese but luckily glanced up and saw a flock of swans. Whooper swans – ten of them – heading south, that also make a deep honking call. The first of the winter and always a beautiful sight, especially in the perfect early morning sunlight.

I continued on to Balcomie in search of yellow-browed warblers. There was a huge, but strangely concentrated, fall of yellow-broweds a couple of weeks ago. Nearly all ended up in Yorkshire because the easterly winds were funnelled by a front to the north and south. Their feast was our famine and we only had one yellow-browed and I overlooked it, checking the tree where it was found earlier that day. In recent years we have got the feast, and it is now becoming unusual not to get to double digits in Crail every year for this (formerly) quite rare bird. The trick is to know their call because they are tiny warblers and are hard to see in tops of the well leafed sycamores that they like to feed in. I luckily heard a couple of bursts of calling as I approached the big trees at the entrance to Balcomie, and after a few minutes picked it out feeding with a loose tit and goldcrest flock among the sunlit leaves. No. 155 for the Crail year list – one I had been counting on.

A yellow-browed warbler - no. 155 for the Crail year list. This is a photo taken by John a couple of weeks back in Mongolia - an indication of their more normal range. Most winter in south-east Asia although there is a steadily growing population that pass through Europe in autumn and that must be wintering in West Africa.

A yellow-browed warbler – no. 155 for the Crail year list. This is a photo taken by John a couple of weeks back in Mongolia – an indication of their more normal range. Most winter in south-east Asia although there is a steadily growing population that pass through Europe in autumn and that must be wintering in West Africa.

On a less cheerful note. The Brunnich’s guillemot was found dead, washed up in the harbour at Anstruther on Friday morning. Its tameness was perhaps better interpreted as a bird on its last legs. A shame, but great to see this rare bird and it was lively enough certainly at the start of its stay with us.

Brunnich's Guillemot RIP - it died on Thursday night

Brunnich’s Guillemot RIP – it died on Thursday night

Posted October 2, 2016 by wildcrail in Sightings

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