December 29th   Leave a comment

Purple sandpiper

Purple sandpiper

Another nice day today, cold enough to feel a bit wintry but with the westerly wind not too strong to make it uncomfortable. Still relatively mild though and I watched a steady and unseasonal stream of gannets past Fife Ness this morning. There were a couple of red-throated divers and a few guillemots at sea and the usual small flock of purple sandpipers amongst the breaking waves on the rocks.

This afternoon I cycled up the B940, north-west from Crail to look for anything in the fields. There is a nice stubble field at Damside which has a lot of starlings, house sparrows, chaffinches, greenfinches, yellowhammers and reed buntings in it and a flock of about 15 tree sparrows. Further up at Muirhead there is a fallow field edge, probably being left for game cover, that is also full of birds – goldfinches, grey partridges, pheasants, skylark and a lot of reed buntings. I tramped around a boggy bit just off the road at Hilleraye and flushed 5 common snipe and with a bit of persistence a single jack snipe – number 161 for the record breaking Crail year list. They are much, much harder to flush and fly off silently making them much trickier to find. They also look a lot like snipe when they fly– the longer bill of a common snipe is foreshortened as they fly away from you so its shorter bill is not much use as a feature. I find the much more prominent golden stripes on the back the best feature along with their smaller size, as long as you see them as they flush close to you. Jack snipe are also supposed to only fly a short distance and not to gain much height – this is not a great feature. Common snipe do usually fly off to a large distance and to go quite high quickly, but jack snipe can do this as well. Inspired by this I tramped a few more wet places and in a near pond in a brassica field at Lochton I flushed another common snipe and then a second jack snipe. This one truer to character flew low and landed in the field close by, running into cover for a bit before freezing. If they stay frozen they are fantastically well camouflaged and I will have walked past many more jack snipe around Crail this year than I found today. Still, now on the year list and better late than never. Two days more to get a barn owl…

Jack snipe - no. 161 for the Crail Year List

Jack snipe – no. 161 for the Crail Year List

Posted December 29, 2016 by wildcrail in Sightings

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