June 11th   Leave a comment

I spent the morning along the farm tracks north-east of Crail filling in the gaps for corn buntings: new ones for Sypsies,Troustie and west of Toldrie. All in obvious wheat fields that looked likely as breeding habitat. They will have been there all along, just not recorded yet because during any one survey some territorial birds are not singing or up on the wires and so don’t get spotted. We call these records “false negatives” – which is a fairly obvious idea – but one that makes much of the science of mapping where things live and estimating how many individuals there are a bit of a nightmare. The only solution is repeated visits so you can estimate this detectability and so correct for it.

I was also listening out for quails. Now is about the peak time to hear them singing softly “wet my lips” repetitively from a wheat or barley field. I have only ever seen one quail in the UK in nearly 40 years of birding but I have heard hundreds. They are tiny gamebirds, barely bigger than a blackbird, and stick to long grass. They are erratic migrants. In a good breeding year there can be hundreds of pairs across England and Sotland and in poor years almost none. We talk about “quail years” when they do appear in numbers. The last was in 2011 when we had up to 10 birds calling in June around Crail. But not this year so far. I will probably have to get my next quail fix when I am next in West Africa during the winter, flushing them up as I walk across fallow farmland.

There are a couple of Canada geese hanging around Crail harbour at the moment. They are becoming a late summer fixture for the East Neuk after being a major rarity for Crail for the first ten years I lived here. A flock now loafs around the shore between Anstruther and Kingsbarns from late May until September now, before consolidating into a larger wintering flock based at Boarhills.

Canada Geese

Posted June 11, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

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