October 7th   Leave a comment

Seaweed fly – one of the legions on Balcomie Beach this morning

The westerlies continue so today there were few migrants about. Summer migrants included only a couple of sandwich terns past Fife Ness heading south and a chiff-chaff and a blackcap at Kilminning. Winter migrants, a siskin and a few skeins of pink-footed geese. It was still a nice autumn day. A flock of long-tailed tits and goldcrests made the top of Kilminning interesting. I found a bullfinch feeding on the whitebeam berries as I looked for yellow-browed warbers. Long-tailed tits and bullfinches are actually quite good Crail birds and these were only my 2nd or 3rd for the year. Balcomie Beach only had redshanks and oystercatchers on it at low tide. At high tide there were a handful of dunlin, ringed plover and two purple sandpiper roosting at Fife Ness. Balcomie Beach might get better next week though because the gales have brought a lot of seaweed up onto the beach. This was rotting gently today, aided by hundreds of thousands of seaweed flies, forming dense clouds above the beach. At high tide there were hundreds of herring gulls picking the flies and maggots washed out by the surf.

Seaweed and the legions of seaweed flies (looking like specks of dust on the photo) above it on Balcomie Beach this morning

I sat at Fife Ness mid-afternoon for an hour or so hoping for some barnacle geese. John Anderson joined me and we spent much of it bemoaning the quietness of this autumn. But even on a quiet day if you sit at Fife Ness long enough you will see something. First, we had a mink running along the shore a few meters away from us. Mink are a non-native animal with a big effect on populations of birds, fish and amphibians – it would be better if we had otters instead – but mink are beautiful. Watching this one swim out of a rock pool and its incredible fur transform from bedraggled to perfect sleekness with just a little shake made me regret the baggage that minks carry with them. Like grey squirrels – they are what we have now and they are worth looking at. John who is not a fan of mink in any way remained unmoved at least.

The mink

Then I spotted a merlin flying towards us from well out to sea. As it came closer we could see it was a female and carrying a meadow pipit. Hard to tell whether it was a Scandinavian bird just in carrying a meadow pipit packed lunch it picked up over the North Sea, or a local bird that ended its chase well out to sea before returning. Either way, something to cheer us both up as it came in nearly over our heads.

The merlin

Posted October 7, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

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