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

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