October 5th   2 comments

I like living in Crail. A red-flanked bluetail was found in Denburn Wood this morning – found by the same person who found the last one in Denburn three years ago! In a further coincidence I had been thinking about bluetails this morning with the continuing easterlies and rueing the fact that I missed the last one in Crail in 2013. I left Crail the hour it was found in Denburn and returned three days later just as it was last sighted. I felt terribly unlucky – red-flanked bluetails were almost legendary rare birds and even as they have become commoner in Britain in recent years (from one bird every 10 years to 10 every year) they still have a mystique about them. And I had missed one on my doorstep so narrowly. The one consolation was the red-flanked bluetail in Denburn before that, that I did see in October 2003. I had just moved into Crail and it was one of my first experiences of the potential of my new home patch. As I have said, back then they were much rarer and hundreds of birders came to Denburn in the three days it was there.

After the bad luck of the last bluetail, my luck was perfect today. Bluetails can be difficult to see in the dense woodland cover they like – they forage close to the ground like robins and are hard to spot unless they move. I arrived early afternoon as soon as I heard the news to find a few people looking for it, but they had had only very poor and fleeting views. As I got the best information on where to look my attention was attracted to a call I didn’t recognise. I followed it and within a minute the red-flanked bluetail popped up in front of me a couple of meters away. I looked at it and it looked at me: I admired its white throat and white eye ring. Then it dropped to the ground for something and popped back onto the same perch facing away from me this time: so I admired its red flanks and blue tail. Then it was gone through the wood, stopping at a couple of other perches before disappearing completely. I called the others over but they just got the tail end of it. A fantastic bit of luck, particularly as everyone then spent the next hour combing the wood with no further sign of it. Eventually we located the dense bushes where it was spending much of its time, keeping out of the way because every time it ventured out an angry robin would chase it around the wood. Red-flanked bluetails are lovely birds to see – imagine if robins were very rare and one popped up on your bird table. And they are very special to me – I have only ever seen two in my life and both in Denburn. It will probably be there tomorrow and the next day – go and have a look for a blue flash being chased by a robin.

Red-flanked bluetail - no. 156 for the Crail year list. This is the 2013 Denburn bird that I missed. Today's bird wasn't very obliging for photographers mainly because the robins weren't letting it feed in the open

Red-flanked bluetail – no. 156 for the Crail year list. This is the 2013 Denburn bird that I missed. Today’s bird wasn’t very obliging for photographers mainly because the robins weren’t letting it feed in the open

Posted October 5, 2016 by wildcrail in Sightings

2 responses to “October 5th

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  1. I suppose Red Flanked Bluetail should probably now displace Swifts from top spot on my favourite birds list. Great wee birds, but very, very frustrating at times. Glad you got to see it this time.

    Barry Farquharson

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