December 12th   Leave a comment

As I walked through St Andrews today I was struck by the number of grey wagtails I could hear above me. It is the same in Crail during the winter. Grey wagtails desert the streams and rivers and adopt the damp slates of the rooftops. From above, on a wet day, an old town like Crail probably looks just like a huge inverted river to a wagtail, with the depressions the dry bits and the water on the peaks. Grey wagtails have only started doing this in any numbers for the last 50 years. They are becoming urban birds in winter now rather than the slightly exotic birds of remote fast flowing upland or West coast streams from my childhood. What makes a species change to become an urban bird? Blackbirds, for example, moved from woodland to towns only in the last 150 years. They were shy country birds and now they make a good living right in the centre of towns. It is hard to say – evolutionary change, behavioural innovations copied between individuals, new opportunities arising with new habitats being created – all must play a part. Regardless, grey wagtails are very welcome. A brilliant splash of yellow against the grey winter rooftops.

Grey wagtail in its traditional waterside haunts

Posted December 12, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

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