March 23rd   Leave a comment

I have been working in the garden all week and after the chiff-chaff of last week I have been hoping for more birds passing through or over. Today’s pipe dream was an osprey. I have only ever seen one Crail osprey; a late summer bird passing over Kingsbarns beach and then over Crail, heading to West Africa. But they must pass over Crail every year. Every time the gulls started making a fuss I looked up in hope but they were just particularly noisy today. Even the local buzzards weren’t flying over and upsetting them, I think it was just boisterousness and squabbles over rooftop territories. One bird I did notice, however, was a male greenfinch or two displaying over the bottom of my garden. Greenfinches have a canary like twittering and a very distinctive stiff winged, slow wingbeat display flight in the spring. They look like big yellow-green butterflies. Their stilted flight makes them look a little bit like swallows too so they often catch my eye at this time of year. Greenfinches have become less common in recent years because of a disease epidemic caused by a protozoan parasite but they still remain a common bird. Every garden in Crail will have a greenfinch singing over it or nearby and they certainly brighten up an early spring, ospreyless, day.

A fine spring male greenfinch

The sea remained quiet today. Just gulls, gannets, cormorants and shags. The cormorants are mostly developing breeding plumage now with white thigh patches and white around the base of their bills. Although we think of cormorants as coastal, they are a bird of rivers and lakes in most other parts of Europe, nesting in big tree colonies like herons. Cormorants here nest at the base of the cliffs amongst the rocks on the May Island. Every evening I watch them fly back to the island to roost, even during the winter: the safety of the May worth the five mile flight from Crail.

Cormorant – just with the start of its breeding plumage

Balcomie Beach was also very quiet this week. All of the waders seem to have moved on apart from the oystercatchers and a few redshanks. The waders that appear from now onwards will be staging on their way north to breed. It really is quite quiet at Fife Ness at the moment and I find myself eager for the spring to get going to improve the chance of encountering something special out there. Springs are very unpredictable here in terms of good numbers of interesting migrant birds – something good always turns up but some years there are lots of good things. We are due a spring of red-backed shrikes with a hoopoe and a bluethroat for good measure.

Posted March 23, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

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