July 14th   Leave a comment

In my life I have only seen quails in Europe three or four times. The first was exceptional. A bird sitting in a tiny reedbed, in full sight in front of a hide on St Marys in the Scillies, spectacularly next to a spotted crake. Two great European skulkers in one go. It was early on in my birding career so I didn’t realise how lucky I was. The rest of my quail sightings have been random brief flushes from farm machinery, the most notable being a harvester going through a field of cotton in Israel in September with quail shooting out of the field in front of it like tiny rugby balls. The rest of my other European quail encounters (perhaps now over a 100) have all been like today: a bird heard but not seen. Today was particularly galling. I was passing by the big wheat field northwest of Troustie House when I heard a quail, barely a meter from the edge of the field and the road I was cycling down. I stopped and the bird kept on calling. It soon became apparent that there was more than one. Probably three. Two moved away calling every so often, while one remained, tantalisingly just out of sight in the wheat directly in front of me. It was moving slowly, calling away. I was so close I could hear the amphibian like croaking part of their call a soft “mwack – mwua”. But I couldn’t see it – even with it being one or two meters away for ten minutes. The temptation to leap the fence to try to flush it was hard to resist, but if there were three birds in the field they may well be breeding, or trying to breed, so best left completely undisturbed. It is turning into a good quail year for Crail, the first since 2011.

Obviously no photo of the elusive quail – but a roe deer more obviously popped out of the field edge a bit later (JA)

Balcomie has been relatively quiet after last Friday. Only three dunlin yesterday, and a couple of whimbrel today. It was relaxed sea watching at Fife Ness. Very calm seas and warm sunshine, but comfortable conditions never bring the best birds. Of note yesterday I had a great skua and some velvet scoter. Today it was mostly just auks, gannets and arctic terns. 

Guillemot – still plenty passing Fife Ness today back and forth from the May Island (JA)

Posted July 14, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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