October 27th   Leave a comment

The wind has been firmly back in the west for the last couple of days bringing slightly warmer weather but no chance of further migrants to finish the season with. There are redwings about now, here for the winter, and there were reports of waxwings on Monday and Tuesday. The word is that we might expect a waxwing winter this year. Waxwings have periodic “irruptions” after a successful breeding season in the taiga of Europe and Asia, spreading much further west as a result. So look out for waxwings over the next 2-3 weeks. We get them first as they arrive on the east coast and Balcomie caravan park with its good rowan berry crop this year is perhaps the best place to look.

Waxwing - unmistakable and very likely in Crail  in the next week or two

Waxwing – unmistakable and very likely in Crail in the next week or two

I was in London on Tuesday sitting in St James’s Park listening to the ring-necked parakeets screeching overhead, remembering the Crail ring-necked parakeet of a few years’ ago. Ring-necked parakeets are spreading out from London where they are now pretty much everywhere. The bird tables, big trees and warm temperatures of the capital insulate this parrot from the winter weather that restricts parrots to more tropical areas. The sub-species that is spreading across the UK is probably mostly the Indian one, and they can occur up to 2000m, so are already quite hardy. They also occur in sub-Saharan Africa. I was watching ring-necked parakeets in Dakar the Tuesday before, where it was 30 degrees hotter than in London this week. A pretty flexible parrot then – and it is always the flexible generalist species that do well in human urban environments. We have a mild climate in Crail, bird tables and tall trees (well a few anyway) so the Crail ring-necked parakeet survived for 7 years here (2005-2012 RIP). And of course the sad conclusion of its lonely existence in Crail was that in the year that a second ring-necked parakeet turned up and they started to breed, both died, probably by a sparrowhawk. Since then the rest of the parakeet breeding population has been inching north. It might be a few years before we get them back to Crail, but ring-necked parakeets are here to stay.

Another good winter bird to look out for and one that is guaranteed right now is the turnstone. They are common around the rocky shores of Crail and particularly between here and Fife Ness. Somewhat inconspicuous, their behaviour of flipping over seaweed (and turning stones of course) draws attention. They are another hardy, flexible species recorded eating almost everything that turns up on the shore (including dead seals!). Turnstones like most waders live a long time and return to exactly the same bit of rocky shore each winter: any turnstone you see is a lifelong Crailer.

A Crail turnstone

A Crail turnstone

Posted October 27, 2016 by wildcrail in Sightings

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