August 11th   Leave a comment

The marsh harrier was still around this morning. I saw it hunting over the wheat fields between Wormiston Farm and Kingsbarns Distillery. I was close enough today to see the wing tags – a conspicuous yellow one on the left wing and a much less obvious purpley-blue one on the right. It was so inconspicuous that I didn’t notice it until I zoomed in a photo later, and I initially reported it as a different harrier to yesterday because I thought today’s only had one tag on. In the fog yesterday I saw them in silhouette flapping like extra feathers so both were equally conspicuous.

The marsh harrier hunting over the fields at Wormiston and just about showing its wing tags (WC)

Further along, down by the golf course there was a whinchat. The first for me this August. Like tree pipits, mid-August is their peak passage time for Crail, and any bird alertly perched on a wire fence or fence post is worth checking.

The juvenile whinchat – on its way to Liberia or Sierra Leone or Senegal

There were other migrants about. A common sandpiper at Balcomie, and another two at Sauchope later, and the first juvenile wheatear of the autumn at Fife Ness. In thirty minutes at Fife Ness I had lots of terns and one adult arctic skua. It was wonderfully close in, with tail pins showing well, chasing kittiwakes and sandwich terns before heading north. The knots were hanging around with the redshanks, and feeding mostly in the muddy tidal pool on the left just after you cross the golf course to get to Fife Ness – this is called stinky pool and is one of the great birding disappointments of Crail. Thirty years ago it regularly attracted a whole range of rarer waders, but during my time in Crail, today was its peak – 17 redshanks and 4 knots. One of the bar-tailed godwits of the spring also turned up in the pool so maybe things are getting better. On Balcomie Beach there was an adult and a juvenile turnstone with the handful of dunlin and sanderling feeding along the surf line. There was a lovely contrast of the bright summer plumaged adult with the more sober blackish juvenile – yet amongst the oranges and reds of the washed in seaweed, they were both equally camouflaged.

Adult and juvenile turnstone on Balcomie Beach this morning (WC)

The rain returned in the afternoon. We have had over 50 millimeters this month and are heading to beat the monthly rain record for the last two years by tomorrow – with nearly three weeks still to go for August. The water table has been well and truly replenished and the dips and depressions in the fields are turning into ponds. The pool at Ribbonfields, by the first crossroads on the way to the secret bunker from Crail is back in business although no waders yet. Just past the recycling centre at Pittenweem, the Dreel Burn has flooded a large area of field (about half a field’s worth) and this afternoon it looked like a proper wetland, the barley masquerading as reeds and with some quite large pools. There were mallards and tufted ducks to complete the picture. At the bend of the burn at Inch Farm, some earlier flooding has drained a bit revealing bare mud. Perfect for waders and two green sandpipers were there. Green sandpipers are not uncommon waders in the winter, favouring small pools, lakesides and even slow moving streams with muddy sides, but they are of course very rare in Crail where we don’t have very many of those habitats. My last Crail green sandpiper was in 2012, coincident with the last very wet year when there were near permanent pools in some of the fields around Crail, and before the farmers got grants to drain them.

The new wetland at Inch, Pittenweem. The recycling centre is on the left and I am looking towards the main road between Pittenweem and St Monans (WC)
Green sandpiper – this was the last one near Crail in 2012. They are not very fussy but need a pool or stream with open sides. Field ponds are ideal. (JA)

Posted August 11, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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