October 14th   Leave a comment

I returned to Balcomie Farm this morning to look for my strange calling chiffchaff. Again it was a parade of ordinary looking and calling chiffchaffs and the female redstart. At least the weather was much better than the day before. I got distracted by the yellowhammers and reed buntings heading out from the farm into the stubble and spotted an unusually small looking reed bunting among them. Intrigued I stalked it down the stone wall that heads down towards the Balcomie golf course. It was a bit frustrating because it kept on moving away down the wall, but every view I got of this smaller bunting pointed to a little bunting – a fairly rare bird, a first for the Crail list and the first one I have ever seen. It is one of those species that after 40 years or so of birding I really should have seen, but there are always a few by chance that elude you. I have been looking for a little bunting a long time. It finally popped up onto the top of the wall and showed a crucial thick black stripe on both sides of its crown, a reddish orange face and a nice white eyering – it looked like a reed bunting in bad makeup, heavy on the eyebrow pencil and heavy on the fake tan. It then disappeared and I spent more frustrating minutes trying to resight it a bit closer: this was my first little bunting and I was feeling a little short of confidence after the fuss I made about the chiffchaff yesterday so I wanted to make doubly sure. But the bunting flock eventually headed off out of sight to the other side of the stubble field or the golf course. I decided not to call it in until I or someone else refound it, although I mentioned it to John and another photographer who had come down to photograph the redstart. Later in the afternoon it was photographed well, up at the ruined cottage, and John confirmed the identification. Number 227 for the Crail list and 2434 on my world list. That’s three new Crail birds this autumn so that officially makes it a good autumn for me, despite the westerlies.

The common redstart at Balcomie farm cottages today and yesterday.

I came back down to Balcomie as fast as I could after I heard about the photo and searched for another hour but the buntings were scarce again. Another one to look for again tomorrow. I should probably camp out at Balcomie Farm. There are worse places – this afternoon as the sun finally came out it was full of skylarks, starlings and linnets in the stubble fields, flocks of both barnacle and pink-footed geese going over, and the redstart still in residence. During the day as I searched for the little bunting I found lots of redpolls, some bramblings, a blackcap, large flocks of tree sparrows, a great spotted woodpecker and a mistle thrush. All nice birds to see on any ordinary day around Crail. The redpolls were everywhere this morning flying over in small flocks with even one bird first thing over my garden. Elsewhere redpolls are very common but they a good bird for Crail, only really reliably turning up in October as the redwings and siskins come in.

Common redpoll – they have a very distinctive flight call as they fly over at this time of year “chicky-chicky-dweeeee”. A good job because few actually stay any length of time around Crail and I hardly ever see them perched.

I spent some time at Kiliminning. There were a couple of yellow-browed warblers at the top, mostly around the first sharp bend near the entrance. They were hard to watch, constantly moving from tree to tree, although at one point one individual was chasing the other. I heard another yellow-browed warbler at the bottom of Kilminning and a single twite flew over making its creaky bedspring call. There were a couple of treecreepers feeding in the treetops with the warblers, with one looking very exotic – like a South American woodcreeper in a bromeliad – as it fossicked among hanging brown clusters of ash keys.

A yellow-browed warbler – usually the star but a bit neglected today. Still lovely birds to find – I am up to about 8 different individuals since last Thursday

Posted October 14, 2018 by wildcrail in Sightings

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