November 18th   Leave a comment

I was out around Crail yesterday and Fife Ness and Balcomie this morning. A relatively quiet weekend but there are always memorable moments. In Denburn yesterday afternoon I was watching the now resident long-tailed tit flock moving noisily through the canopy when a blue tit with them gave a frantic alarm call and they all dived into cover, down to the still leafy bushes below the trees. Seconds later a male sparrowhawk passed through, zig-zagging through the upper branches, too late to catch anything. It was gone just as quickly as it appeared and within half a minute the tit flock was reinstated, noisy and bustling again. I watched grey wagtails along the stream in Denburn and further down at its mouth in Roome Bay, enjoying their bright flash of yellow as an inoculation against the dull grey of the weather this weekend. I flushed a couple of woodcock at Fife Ness – they disturbed the stillness of an almost empty Patch. Sea watching was all the usual winter wildfowl – long-tailed ducks, common scoters, eiders and goldeneyes passing – but exciting because of the now easterly wind building up the waves. The red-breasted mergansers and the shags fishing the surf were having a hard time in the disturbed water. There were a couple of kittiwake flocks far out and as I watched one, trying to dream up sabine’s gulls from the juveniles among it, I picked up a skua chasing a kittiwake even further out. A herring gull then tried to join in the chase giving a good size comparison to clinch the identification as an arctic skua – this late it is almost more likely to be a pomarine skua. The only slightly unusual bird of the weekend was a redpoll on a gorse bush alongside Crail golf course. Being perched rather than the more usual flyover, I could identify it as a lesser redpoll, the British sub-species of redpoll (and formerly a species in its own right). Redpolls were split into several species but they are really only one, varying in size and the paleness of their plumage along an east-west and north-south gradient. But when paler Arctic birds jump down, or browner, larger continental birds jump across to join the British redpolls, then they can seem quite different. A really pale Arctic type redpoll is a thing of great beauty and well worth seeing even if it is not a full species, so I will keep checking for them.

Male red-breasted merganser

Posted November 18, 2018 by wildcrail in Sightings

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