April 17th   Leave a comment

I saw a hoopoe on the way to work today. If ever there was a rare bird made to be identified from a moving car, it is a flying hoopoe – a big strikingly patterned butterfly of a bird. We had just passed the kirk at Boarhills and the Balmashie cottages on the corner when a bird flying up from the stone wall or the verge by the road caught my eye. A hoopoe, at eye level as we passed. It banked up and flew briefly beside the car before heading over into the field behind the wall. Only two seconds worth but I can still see it burnished into my mind: Africa, Italy and Cyprus brought to the East Neuk this morning. The hoopoe will be an overshooting migrant that flew a bit further than intended last night. They are common in the south of Europe and they are familiar to anyone who has a summer holiday around the Mediterranean. They are shy but like gardens, parks and orchards so are often seen on the irrigated lawns or golf courses around resort hotels, very noticeable as they fly away like my bird this morning, with their bold black and white stripes. If you get lucky and see one on the ground they are very endearing, picking daintily about with their very long curved bill and frequently flicking up their long crest like a cockatoo. They are pretty rare in Scotland. A few turn up each year and we have had a couple in the Crail area in the last 16 years. I missed them both: April 5th 2014 in a Pinkerton garden, and March 23rd 2011 in a Marketgate garden (only 150m from my house!). They get noticed and identified by non-birders but they don’t hang around. I put mine out on the grapevine immediately and John Anderson was out looking for it within the hour, but it wasn’t seen again today. Still, third time lucky for me and I have it at last for my Crail area list – now up to 228 species. Spring is truly here – swallows and who knows what else tomorrow.

A hoopoe – this one taken by John in Fuertaventura. It is small pigeon sized and even more striking in flight.

Posted April 17, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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