Archive for September 2017

September 30th   Leave a comment

It was clear last night with little wind so good departure conditions for migrants. There was a fair bit of visible migration during the last two days – skylarks, meadow pipits and redpolls passing over. This morning there were still migrants about but many fewer than mid-week. The swallows have all gone, the final ones and twos disappearing imperceptibly this week so that today I didn’t see a single one – the first such day since the end of April. I only found two yellow-browed warblers today – one at the top of Kilminning and a second in the big sycamores behind the caravans at Fife Ness. I spent a long time looking unsuccessfully for a common redstart at Kilminning and of course, because I wasn’t looking for yellow-browed warblers I kept on getting great views of one. I also found a garden warbler, feeding inconspicuously on rowan berries.

Garden warbler

The barred warbler was showing well again today. I only had to wait 5 minutes before it came out to grab elderberries, in clear view for about 30 seconds. It really is the best barred warbler for visibility we have ever had. There was also a spotted flycatcher at the bottom of Kilminning – this is a new bird in yesterday or today. The pied flycatcher remains at Balcomie, again right up in the canopy of the biggest sycamore by the walled garden and requiring a few minutes to find it. There were a couple of brambling in the same sycamore.

The Patch at Fife Ness was very quiet – everything had moved on from last Thursday except a chiff-chaff. I heard the yellow-browed warbler as I sat on the hill just outside the patch scanning the sea – one was reported here last Monday and I suspect it is the same bird rather than a new one in. I had plenty of opportunity to hear the yellow-brow because I was a long time watching at least 21 bottle-nosed dolphins passing by into the Forth. The sea was calm and from my elevated vantage they were relatively easy to count. They were spread out in groups of 3-4, with a big range of sizes from quite young ones to big adults. A great skua flew over them while I was counting.

Bottle-nosed dolphin

Posted September 30, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 29th   Leave a comment

Despite the increased number of things turning up in the south-easterlies this week, there hasn’t been much going on at sea. Sea watching has remained fairly quiet, with the only things of note being a steady stream of late fledging young gannets going out of the Forth and a steady stream of red-throated divers going in. We haven’t had a winter with lots of red-throats around Crail for a few years but it looks like we might this year.

One of the many red-throated divers flying past Fife Ness into the Forth this week

Posted September 29, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 28th   Leave a comment

More easterlies on Tuesday and getting stronger on Wednesday and then finally some heavy rain for a few hours on Wednesday night. Thursday dawned bright and sunny, with little wind. A perfect stage for finding some migrant birds around Crail. I checked out Kilminning and Balcomie first thing this morning: at least 4 yellow-browed warblers, chiff-chaffs, blackcaps, a willow warbler, the first brambling of the year, lots of new song thrushes and robins, a couple of redpolls and the barred warbler starting its second week at the south end of Kilminning. After its shyness of the weekend the barred warbler is now feeding on elder berries, popping out of cover to eat them and being nicely and regularly visible. It should stay around for another week or two and as the leaves start to fall and it continues to feed on elder berries it should be fairly easy to see. The best vantage point is the first “bay” south of the ruined  toilet block, where there is a dense dog rose bush, backed by the elders it is favouring, and just to the north of the whitebeams (not rowans as I called them last week) where I first found it. On my back to Crail there was a northern wheatear in the stubble by the airfield. Finally I checked Denburn Wood optimistically for a red-flanked blue-tail. They have got a lot more common in the autumn in the UK and the conditions over the last three days were exactly what brought the last three birds to Denburn.

The barred warbler now in residence at Kilminning for its second week

Last thing this afternoon I checked out the Patch at Fife Ness. Another 3 yellow-browed warblers at least, a lesser whitethroat, a blackcap and some more chiff-chaffs. The yellow-brows seem to be calling quite regularly this year and so are not hard to find – or there are a lot of them about. On my way back I stopped off at the tall sycamores around Balcomie Castle to look for a pied flycatcher reported there. I found it after quite a long search because it was keeping right to the top of the canopy and picking insects off the trunks and branches rather than conspicuously flycatching. This is the first Crail pied flycatcher of the autumn and very late. They are usually a common and reliable “scarce” migrant from late August onwards. The breeding season was late in parts of Scandinavia this year so we may just be at the start of a late passage season. Time will tell as we move into October next week and the peak period for unusual birds in Crail.

Yellow-browed warbler – I found at least 7 today

Posted September 28, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 26th   Leave a comment

Yellow-browed warbler

The easterly winds have continued and there was rain on Sunday night. Monday and today there were lots of reports of yellow-browed warblers and some spotted flycatchers from around Crail. I stopped at Cambo on my way home from work to look for a ring ouzel reported there at lunchtime. Almost straight away I got onto a mixed flock working their way along a wooded hedge on the western edge of the gold course. Three species of tits, treecreepers, goldcrests, chaffinches, wrens, robins and dunnocks – and mixed in with them a chiff-chaff and a yellow-browed warbler. Nothing beats a mixed flock in the autumn. Lots to look at and when you have checked them all you can start again because there will always be birds that you missed first time, always with the hope of something special among them. At one point a pied wagtail ended up in the middle of flock, atypically perched in the middle of a small oak tree. I didn’t see it at first, but I heard it call. Lots of very rare warblers sound a bit like pied wagtails so my excitement went up a notch briefly. I didn’t have time to really search for the ring ouzel but the flock wasn’t a bad consolation prize. It feels like there is a lot more to find this week, especially with the concealing fog today.

Posted September 26, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 24th   Leave a comment

The rain overnight didn’t materialise and so with not only Dundee RSPB group and the Fife Bird Club in the area, but also a contingent from Glasgow and the Lothians, there were many more birders than birds today. The barred warbler had an audience of up to 30 at a time although some had to wait several hours to get even a modest view. It is much harder in a crowd to see something like a barred warbler because you can’t go and sit quietly in the middle of one of the bushes and wait, looking up against the sky to see it more easily as it moves through. That wouldn’t work if thirty people did it and the peer pressure if you did it unilaterally would too much to bear. I looked for birds elsewhere today; Kilminning was pretty well covered even of no-one could look inside the bushes.

The wind remained south-easterly and reasonably strong, but there was surprising little sea-watching from Fife Ness. Very few kittiwakes, and no shearwaters or skuas at all. There was a female merlin hunting around the Yellow House at Wormiston Farm. I watched it string together a series of unsuccessful attacks on a linnet flock, some meadow pipits and then a skylark, with clouds of small birds rising up in front of it so I could keep track of it even as it disappeared behind dykes and into ditches. Another highlight was a big flock of roosting golden plovers, ringed plovers and dunlins in the harvested potato field next door to the driving range at Balcomie Golf Course. There were a lot of linnets among them and possibly also some twite but I couldn’t get close enough to hear them. There are several hundred golden plovers in total around Balcomie at the moment, with sub-flocks roosting in several ploughed fields and Balcomie Beach, as well as the potato field. They are spending a lot of time nervously flying around between roosts and I think this is because there is a peregrine around. I have seen roosting birds spook several times to low flying woodpigeons which makes me think they are a bit sensitive and I saw a peregrine the day before yesterday coming from Balcomie. As with the merlin, any peregrine in the area will concentrate where there are lots of prey, and the fields around Balcomie really are full of birds.

Golden Plover flock

On one occasion as I watched another flock of golden plover circling Balcomie I spotted a different wader with the flock. A ruff: the first of the year and not always guaranteed for the year list. Having seen this one, I then saw another a few hours later flying over Kilminning. It could be the same bird of course: Ruff are very happy feeding in ploughed or pasture fields, with almost any other species of wader or alone. One or two could easily disappear into the fields around Crail. I have been checking Balcomie Beach all summer for them but perhaps I should have been paying more attention inland.

Ruff

Posted September 24, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 23rd   Leave a comment

There was a common rosefinch seen yesterday afternoon and I hurried down to Kiminning after work to see if I could see it. Rosefinches are hard to connect with. They don’t stay around long in the autumn and aren’t very conspicuous. By the time I got there it was early evening and gloomy, with a strong south-easterly wind. Not the best conditions and despite checking through a lot of goldfinches I didn’t get lucky. For every bird I could see there were another 10 hidden under the canopies of the rowan trees where the rosefinch had been seen. I tried again first thing this morning. A contrasting beautiful bright and still day, with lots of late season swallows passing over singing in the morning sunlight. Perfect for finding anything. But not the rosefinch again. They often are just one day wonders. I consoled myself by relocating the barred warbler down at the bottom of Kilminning. It was in the same place as the Thursday when I found it, but much less conspicuous. Only one reasonable view and a burst of call: a characteristic rattling series of chacks. It was feeding within the rowans and roses again, moving over about 70 meters, so hard to be in the right place to snatch a view. It is likely to stay at Kilminning for several weeks now. The real highlight of the morning for me was a lovely view of a badger shambling along a bank at Kilmmining before disappearing into the same dense cover I was scanning for the barred warbler. When you do see them and realise how large and obvious they are it seems impossible that they are hardly ever seen. There are several setts within 500 meters of Kilminning – probably 50 resident badgers or so – but I have seen many more barred warblers there.

Badger

Despite the promise of the barred warbler and the rosefinch, and so a steady stream of birders around Kilminning and Fife Ness, nothing much else was turned up: lesser whitethroats and a blackcap. I found a Lapland bunting along the coastal path about 800m north of Balcomie Beach. As I cycled by I saw a brown bird fly up from the beach and continue over the golf course and I could see it was odd – a cross between a bunting and a skylark in flight – the distinctive signature of a Lapland bunting. Not quite enough to clinch a certain identification but luckily it gained height and began calling – a rippling “trrrk” followed by a “chew” – which did clinch it. I have been expecting a Lapland bunting all week. When we get northerlies at the end of September we get them, although they disappear among the skylarks in the endless stubble fields. It usually takes a lot of tramping across the fields to find one.

There is rain forecast tonight so there may be more birds tomorrow. There is also an excursion by both the Dundee RSPB group and the Fife Bird Club to Crail and Fife Ness tomorrow. I imagine the two groups will meet in Denburn Wood tomorrow lunchtime and probably have a turf war. But hopefully such numbers of observers will turn up something good. Previous excursions have turned up red-flanked bluetail and Pallas’s warbler in Denburn.

Posted September 23, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 21st   Leave a comment

A spell of easterly wind yesterday and heavy rain showers overnight. It cleared up a bit by the afternoon and I went out to the bottom (south part) of Kilminning. There were a lot of birds about, active after the rain. Flocks of skylarks, probably just in from Scandinavia in the stubble fields, and hundreds of home-grown goldfinches on the thistles along the edges. I started to check the insides of the bushes and under the canopies of the trees where the flycatchers and warblers end up after a storm. You still have to get lucky, but it was still and movement amongst the leaves was easy to spot. I saw something in a rowan that looked like a shrike, largish with a longish tail and with a scaly look. For once, instead of diving further into the tree, the bird looked back at me and bristled its head, looking more affronted than alarmed. It scrabbled around the branch it was on and even came a bit closer giving me a lovely view. A barred warbler – not a shrike – but as good as. I am lucky when I find a barred warbler, rare and also skulking, and not usually given to looking back at you with as much interest as I was giving it. They are scruffy looking warblers, with scaly marks under their tail and on their back that make them look dirty. And their colour is already a dirty grey with a slight pinkish tinge as if they have got dusty. As the barred warbler looked at me it fluffed up its head feathers again further adding to its dishevelled appearance. I am probably not selling this bird, but it was super-sized and full of character, and best of all, actually visible. Perhaps the bird then realised I had discovered why barred warblers generally skulk – because it’s easier than looking smart. I can sympathise with that. Of course, it promptly disappeared. I had probably only been looking at it for 15 seconds: it seemed like a lot longer. I kept looking but there was nothing else except a willow warbler.

Barred warbler

I checked out the top of Kilminning just in case. Where there is one rare bird there is usually another. Only a chiff-chaff and a lot more goldfinches. I scanned them for a rosefinch and was rewarded with a young siskin. Not a great rarity but the first of the winter.

The sun came out in the evening to clebrate. The sea flat calm. Not nearly as many seabirds as the weekend, but great visibility. There were two adult little gulls dipping with the kittiwakes out from the Brandyburn. Things seem to be picking up this autumn at last.

Adult winter little gull

Posted September 21, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 20th   Leave a comment

Arctic and common terns have now all but disappeared but there are still a lot of sandwich terns passing by Crail and fishing out at Fife Ness. They are still mainly in pairs – an adult followed by a noisy begging juvenile. The young probably follow (or chase) their parents all the way down to Senegal, learning the route as they go. Terns seem to go in for social learning: I watched a common tern last week trying to teach its young to fish by bringing in a small sand eel and dropping it in the water repeatedly close to a juvenile perched on a nearby rock. The juvenile in classic teenager style ignored its parent and the adult eventually ate the fish itself. I have also been noticing that the carrion crows and even jackdaws on the rocky shore have been chasing the terns, trying to steal fish from them. I wonder if this is because the adult terns unintentionally taught the crows that there was easy fish to be had instead of their lazy young.

Sandwich Tern

Posted September 20, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 19th   Leave a comment

This evening was a perfect autumn evening, with weak sunlight lingering late and swallows still over the stubble fields. I came back to Crail via Anstruther enjoying the underlit buzzards glowing in the low light, and one flashing red and white as it banked making me think briefly and excitedly of a red kite. Still to turn up on my Crail list. As I thought about this I saw another distant raptor with slim wings being mobbed by a couple of crows. I pulled over, grabbed my binoculars and resolved a marsh harrier, now flying over the fields by the secret bunker. Always a good Crail bird, but the second this year after another migrant over Wormiston in May. That one heading north to breed and this one heading south, possibly as far as Senegal or Liberia to spend the winter.

Marsh harrier

Posted September 19, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 17th   Leave a comment

I walked from Kingsbarns Beach along the coast path back to Crail this morning. There were a couple of bar-tailed godwits in the sandy bays south of Kingsbarns. I should think these are the residents back for the winter that then use Balcomie Beach later in the season. The arctic and common terns have moved on completely with only sandwich terns still fishing out from the rocks. At sea at Fife Ness there were a few arctic terns passing but nothing like the big numbers of last week. Instead there were huge numbers of kittiwakes passing, coming out of the Forth and heading north into the wind. There were probably a thousand birds visible at any one time scanning from north to south with a telescope. With lots of gannets and fulmars passing too the seascape was full of birds. There was a steady passage of red-throated divers and common scoters heading north as well.

As I got back to Crail I heard a familiar call from the sycamore at the south end of the sheep field behind Roome Bay: a yellow-browed warbler. The first of the autumn calling loudly and clearly. I saw it well for a few seconds glowing green and yellow and with its brow and double wing bars.

Yellow-browed warbler

The sea looked so full of potential that I had to return to Fife Ness mid-afternoon for another sea-watching session. I’m glad I did. The best hour’s birding I have had for a while. Again, a seascape full of birds and perhaps even more kittiwakes than the morning. And in an hour I saw 10 sooty shearwaters (finally the first of the autumn), 31 manx shearwaters, 15 arctic skuas and 8 great skuas. Many passing quite close in, the sooty shearwaters shooting past looking all powerful even as they flew into the wind. Many of the skuas harrying the kittiwakes as they passed. For one spectacular chase I watched a great skua chasing an arctic skua chasing a kittiwake. As the great skua caught up the kittiwake just dropped its fish and both skuas tumbled down after it, the great skua crowding out the more nimble arctic in the end to get the prize. They were still coming past as I left and there was a great skua close in to Roome Bay as I returned to Crail.

Arctic skua chasing a kittiwake

Posted September 17, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 15th   Leave a comment

The wind shifted round to the north-east yesterday and today we had the pink-footed geese back. Small flocks were passing overhead most of the day, coming from Aberdeenshire on their way down from Iceland, and crossing the Forth towards Aberlady. It really feels like autumn when you hear the first geese going over Crail.

Pink-footed geese

Posted September 15, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 14th   Leave a comment

There was a pulse of waders through the Eden Estuary at the beginning of the week – curlew sandpiper, ruff and little stint – but none made it onto Balcomie Beach. There are still small groups of dunlin, ringed plover and sanderling there. I can’t tell how much turnover there is in their numbers: perhaps not that much considering that nothing new seems to have come in. There are at least more redshanks there now and many more along the rocky shore to Crail as the juveniles start setting up their territories for the winter. These redshanks will mostly then be here for life, returning every winter that they survive. Each year some of the adults don’t come back from breeding and these territorial “holes” in the rocky shore get filled up with juveniles. How long the juveniles search for a vacant good territory is hard to tell. I think they will go for almost the first thing they find after arriving from the breeding ground. It’s a race against time – if they don’t occupy a place soon then all the good spaces will be gone. It’s a great advantage to arrive first and so a great advantage for adults to breed early and give their young a head start in life: this is probably true of most animals. On Balcomie Beach it seems much more fluid with a flock of up to 40 redshanks. They disperse out onto the rocky shore or the lower beach at low tide and do defend small areas from other redshanks, but mainly they seem less territorial than the birds on pure rocky shore. And it is not unusual to find flocks of redshank even at mid-tide on the beach. Not exactly a tight flock of “friends” like dunlin, but a definitely a group of birds tolerating each other. These are often juveniles so I wonder if they are making the best of a bad job in the absence of a territory.

Redshank

There were large flocks of seabirds finally at the end of last week, just out of sight from Fife Ness. I have been able to see only the vague shapes of hundreds of gulls just popping up above the horizon, shimmering in the heat haze – perhaps even a mirage of gulls even further out. Aesthetically pleasing but very irritating. Far too far out to see which species are involved. One flock made it into the Forth between Crail and the May Island last Thursday evening. All kittiwakes that I could identify but still far enough out that there was probably something else among them. I keep waiting for some winds to bring them all closer.

Juvenile kittiwake

Posted September 14, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 10th   Leave a comment

It felt like today should have been a bit busier than it was: there were quite strong winds after some light easterlies yesterday and rain showers all day. But the sea remains the quietest I have seen at this time of year since I moved to Crail 14 years ago. I haven’t seen a sooty shearwater this year, manx shearwaters have been rare since the beginning of August and there are barely any great and arctic skuas passing. And today watching the arctic terns far out from Fife Ness I was reminded that little gulls are also rare this year. There are good and bad years for little gulls, and as I watched a single first winter little gull amongst the terns, it occurred to me that we are heading for a bad year for little gulls too. The stronger wind did bring more newly fledged juvenile gannets. I think they are so heavy when they fledge, they need a good strong wind to get themselves airborne and to carry them out of the Forth.

First winter little gull

Posted September 10, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 9th   Leave a comment

This summer has not been a good one for butterflies. Last year wasn’t either. They were spectacularly absent all summer until the first week of August. Now there are a few about at last – almost all red admirals with a few peacocks and painted ladies; almost no whites at all. Butterfly numbers do fluctuate up and down and are very weather dependent. Even so it is noticeable this year how absent they are. And red admirals (and painted ladies which I see all over Africa too) are migrants so most of the butterflies we have in Crail now are not even home grown. The damp period mid-summer must have really done for most of our caterpillars.

One of the red admirals in my garden this afternoon

Posted September 9, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 7th   1 comment

Late August and September brings the merlins through Crail. I saw a female perched on a dyke by the side of the road as I approached Kingsbarns from St Andrews this afternoon. The wide open stubble fields there with their flocks of linnets are perfect for a merlin – although pretty much all of the East Neuk suits this open country loving falcon.

September is a great opportunity to learn robin song. They are the only birds singing at the moment. As you walk past Denburn in the morning you can hear them singing again as they regain their territorial confidence after moulting and replacing their red badge of authority during August.

Robin – the only bird singing at the moment so a good opportunity to learn their song

Posted September 8, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 5th   Leave a comment

The easterly winds continued yesterday along with heavy rain. A few things have appeared on the May Island so there was hope during a lunchtime visit to Kilminning this afternoon. It soon evaporated – a couple of chiff-chaffs but otherwise the woods and bushes were empty. It is barred warbler season so there could have been one or two of them about. They are very skulking and you have to be very lucky – so a false negative today or a true negative? The best scenario is to find a couple of easy minor rarities like a redstart or a pied flycatcher, then more birders come out and if there are enough skulking around Kilminning then the skulking barred warblers get spotted. Of course, when you know one is there, that it is really is a false negative, you invest the time and get to see it yourself. But with the feeling that today was a true negative, I headed home after about half an hour. The migrant season has just started so it’s just as well to get work done when it is quiet, ready for when we get a proper spell of easterlies.

The first gannets of the year are starting to fledge. They are dark brown at a distance and full of fat so fly in quite a heavy fashion making them very distinctive. A few end up sitting on the rocks of Crail pathetically as if helpless but they are just coming to terms with being independent and their fat will keep them going for quite a while.

Gannets – an adult, a newly fledged juvenile and a 3rd year (left to right)

Posted September 5, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 3rd   Leave a comment

There has been a good south-easterly wind all day. It should get things moving. At Fife Ness the gannets were streaming by enjoying the stiff breeze, powering along using its energy instead of their own to get to and from Bass Rock. There were hundreds of common and arctic terns heading south into the wind – these would presumably be passing further out – just today pushed closer into the shore. The light was odd today so the juvenile arctic terns looked grey backed as they approached from the north: I got excited hoping they were black terns. As they got closer and became visible against the sea rather than the sky then they became much paler and resolved themselves as arctics. A cautionary lesson – a single juvenile arctic glimpsed today, would have probably have gone down as a black tern. When there are hundreds of them it’s easy to realise that something is up with the light. Sea watching is like this – I once spent several weeks watching shearwaters pass Gibraltar. We watched in the early morning and in the evening (when the birds of prey weren’t passing over the rock). After a while we realised that we saw much more of one species in the morning than the evening, and then becoming aware of this we started to notice that we saw more of one species passing into the Mediterranean than out. It was all tricks of the light – the shearwaters at the time were all manx shearwater types, still in the process of being split into the three or four species that they are now considered to be, and the colour of their backs and the degree of contrast in their plumage were the main criteria to split them then. All subjective and all totally dependent on the strength of the light and the background. I’m sure we saw three of the species but it was only at the end of four weeks that we felt we could do it regardless of the direction of the light and the time of day. The golden rules of sea watching remain though: never identify anything until you have spent a good while getting your eye in to how the light is, and anything not seen well but identified as something rare in the first few minutes is unlikely to be so.

Despite the good tern numbers there was not much else. No shearwaters to try the light further apart from fulmars. A single dark arctic skua – possibly the same bird as yesterday intercepting the passing terns like a highwayman. There were more teal passing and later past Crail a velvet scoter and another dark phase artic skua.

There was a greenshank in stinky pool (the muddy tidal pool just on the left after the road crosses the golf course just before the tip of Fife Ness). A common sandpiper was north of Balcomie Beach along with 5 wheatears. I scanned through the tern flock there with a telescope for 40 minutes but no roseate terns and many fewer arctic terns compared to yesterday. Today it was mostly common terns. There must be a big turnover of birds every day – instead of a static flock resident for a month, perhaps a more dynamic congregation of whatever birds are passing that week.

One of the Balcomie common terns

Posted September 3, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 2nd   Leave a comment

I got lucky with the tern flock on the rocks north of Balcomie Beach this morning. There were about 200 terns, common and arctic with a handful of sandwich, and all fairly close in because of the tide. As I first approached them I could hear straight away a clear “chu-vick” call, and then another – at least two roseate terns were among them. It was a blizzard of terns as they flew up in response to some nearby crows but it helped me to locate the roseates as the distinctive calls moved through the flock. I got on to one, then another and the two both landed by a third. Distinctively paler than the Arctics and commons they were with, with a black leading edge to the wing and a black bill. Easy to pick out with the call but when I tried to relocate them a few minutes later from a better position and after another reshuffle caused by the crows I couldn’t find them. There were a lot of terns to look at and they kept on shifting about, and of course the roseates could have moved away. Anyway, a lot of fun – it always is after you have seen the rare bird, never the other way round. These are my first Crail roseates since August 2014. I suspect one or two are here every year mixed in with the other terns like today, but very hard to pick out unless the terns are in close and calling. Roseate terns are an odd species, most breed on tropical islands but a few pairs get up as far as Scotland. They used to breed regularly in the Forth under the road bridge and occasionally they turn up on the May Island. The few pairs that breed in the UK seem precious because they are rare here but there are hundreds of thousands scattered through tropical oceans.

Roseate tern – taken in June on the May but one of the Balcomie birds today looked pretty much like this.

I continued on to Fife Ness. I checked out the patch because the winds were a bit easterly yesterday. It was very quiet – I was being optimistic – we need more than a day of easterlies and of course a bit of rain. There was just a chiff-chaff, singing away like a spring bird. The sea at Fife Ness was also fairly quiet but with some teal and goosander passing. And then an arctic skua passing by into the Forth. My first of the year and with the roseates today taking my Crail year list up to 142.

Arctic skua

Posted September 2, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 1st   Leave a comment

The Crail swifts have been gone a couple of weeks and the gloaming is much quieter without their screams (quiet full stop now the herring gull chicks and their attendant adults have moved to the sea). But last night I noticed a large flock of house martins doing what the swifts do, flocking up very high and barely visible, above Crail just as it was getting dark. They were calling like the swifts, although a house martin call is a soft, rippling “prrt” not a scream, as if they too were getting excited about some communal activity. The swifts do it because they roost on the wing and the parties get higher and higher as night falls, probably going up several kilometres and then sleeping intermittently as they glide down between ascents. There is some circumstantial evidence that house martins also roost on the wing like this on occasions during the summer. People watching nests have observed birds coming down to them from a great height at dawn and when intercepted going into the nests they were then very cold to touch consistent with the house martins having been at very high altitude. I watched the house matins last night until I couldn’t see them any longer and it was just as if they were swifts, so I think they were off to roost high over Crail last night.

House martin – they may sleep on the wing like swifts

Posted September 1, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

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