October 12th   Leave a comment

The winds became more southerly overnight but there was heavy rain just after dark and during the early part of the night. Great conditions for a fall of migrants. Sure enough, at first light at Kilminning there were literally hundreds of redwings flying up from the trees and the ground, and there were flocks passing all morning, some still coming in from the sea. There were many blackbirds and song thrushes as well, with a few fieldfares, and lots of bramblings going over. But the real thrush highlight were the ring ouzels. I saw at least three this morning, starting off with a young female in the rowan at the entrance to Kilminning, by the go-kart sign. It helpfully was sitting in the middle of the road as I drove in before retreating to the rowan tree. It is full of berries and on the sheltered side of Kilminning – the wind has remained strong all day making it hard to locate birds, and making it hard for the birds to find sheltered spots. It was really instructive to see this bird – obviously a ring ouzel when I first saw it out in the open, and because it gave the pebbles struck together chacking call that is so distinctive – but then pretty much like a blackbird when it was less obviously on display in the middle of the rowan. It made me realise I could easily have overlooked a couple among the blackbirds yesterday. The moral is – on easterly stormy winds – double check every sooty billed blackbird for a first winter female ring ouzel. A much more obvious male joined the first bird a bit later, with a clear, large white breast band, and I saw a third bird, another obvious male on the golf course out at Craighead. I suspect there are a few ring ouzels feeding away in Crail gardens right now being overlooked as blackbirds.

How to spot a first winter female ring ouzel when it is doing its best to look like a blackbird and be overlooked

The Patch at Fife Ness had at least two yellow-browed warblers – two were calling at the same time from different areas, and I suspect there was a third there as well. There was a pied flycatcher – the first of the autumn – happily catching insects in the sycamore canopy in the more sheltered sycamores with the yellow-brows. I had a frustrating brief view of the tail end of a greyish bird with white tail tips disappearing into a bramble – probably a barred warbler – but just not quite good enough view to be sure. I couldn’t tempt it out with playback or refind it, but that means little with super skulking barred warblers. There was also a chiff-chaff and a female blackcap that I didn’t see yesterday suggesting that these were new in migrants – I found almost nothing in the Patch yesterday except redwings.

Sea watching at Fife Ness was exciting – strong winds and gannets like albatrosses soaring by at close range, auks shooting by like cannon balls. The highlight was picking up thrushes and flocks of starling far out and watching them come in from the sea. There were a few red-throated divers, wigeon, common scoter and velvet scoter passing.

The rain has now set in for the rest of the day and probably through tomorrow. This will keep the current migrants here and may bring some more down, although I suspect we won’t be able to find them in such poor conditions until it clears up a bit.

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Posted October 12, 2018 by aboutcrail in Sightings

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