October 29th   Leave a comment

I spent some of today guiding a birding friend of a colleague who hadn’t been birding in the UK before. It was great to be with someone who got excited at seeing their first dunnock, reed bunting and meadow pipit. A flock of greenfinches on the beach at West Sands was suddenly not something to be glanced at, but instead something to be properly looked at and appreciated. Greenfinches really are outrageously bright green and yellow, and really interesting to look at as they foraged among the marram grass. A goldfinch on a fence among a flock of linnets is a real star when you haven’t seen one before.  Malcolm is from California – a great birding location – and so it was also interesting being reminded of the similarities and differences between two widely separated parts of the world. Things in common like Slavonian grebes, dunlin, sanderling, a peregrine, red-breasted mergansers, things nearly in common like grey herons and golden plovers, and things that were major rarities to him in his patch like common ringed plovers or long-tailed duck. True to form being with an American we found an American rarity that you wouldn’t look at twice at off any Californian beach – two drake surf scoters in amongst the hundreds of common scoters in St Andrews Bay. As I got excited about picking out these rarities (although there are 1 or 2 in St Andrews Bay most winters) I noticed Malcolm more interested in a pied wagtail at our feet and then a rook on the railing besides us: both of them lifers for him. We finished off at Fife Ness with beautiful late afternoon light and a busy sea with hundreds of kittiwakes passing and a couple of arctic skuas, a great skua and a manx shearwater. And the brilliant highlight of a Sabine’s gull just as we arrived. I have only ever seen 4 Sabine’s gulls before in my life: one in Barrow Alaska, two off Senegal and one flying past Crail into the Forth about a decade ago. Here was another about 50 meters out dipping over the sea like a kittiwake but with its very distinctive brown white and black triangles back pattern. I followed it as it went further out to sea before losing it when it landed on the water. It was a good bird for Malcolm too but his first ever gannets that were nearby were much more attention grabbing. The Sabine’s gull is a great bird to get again for the Crail list, almost like a new bird. Two in 16 years is pretty rare. This autumn is not turning out to be too bad, for a bad autumn. And we are still having good easterlies with some rain forecast overnight: I saw a woodcock as I passed Wormiston on the way to work which is a good sign of things starting to come in.

Woodcock – look out for one in your garden tomorrow

Posted October 29, 2018 by wildcrail in Sightings

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