Archive for September 2019

September 30th   Leave a comment

There are still plenty of barnacle geese passing Crail. When they call as they fly over they sound like yapping terriers. It was a grey seawatch this evening, practically dark even at 6 when I started. But the barnacle geese and a little gull passing in to the Forth brightened things up.

More barnacle geese

Posted September 30, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 29th   Leave a comment

The wind is still from the north-east and quite strong. Looking at a wind map, it looks like the conditions should blow seabirds past Fife Ness. But there wasn’t much evidence of this at lunchtime. The gannets and auks were passing close, but they were all birds coming out of the Forth, sheltering from the wind by keeping close to land until they turned the corner at the Ness. Anything heading south must have been very far out. There were only a few velvet scoters, sandwich terns and red-throated divers passing in that direction. Migrant wise there was a northern wheatear at stinky pool. It was really too windy at Kilminning to get grips with any other migrants although there were still yellow-browed warblers and chiffchaffs about. The barred warbler was seen today by a few people: I tried a couple of times briefly at the elder bushes without luck. I think it is averaging about a half an hour wait before you get a view of it. The many stonechats along the coast path between Fife Ness and Kilminning were much easier – a classic extrovert species in contrast.

A female stonechat at Fife Ness (JA)

Posted September 29, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 28th   2 comments

The north-easterlies today made for a bright and fresh day. It was clear overnight and so it wasn’t too suprising to find the red-breasted flycatcher had moved on from Craighead. In fact there were few migrants about except at Kilminning. I did my usual Saturday morning circuit through Wormiston, past the yellow house and then along the coast path to Balcomie Beach and didn’t see a single summer migrant except for an arctic tern. I did see the juvenile male peregrine that has been hunting around Balcomie for the last week, flushing skylark up from the fields around the yellow house, and one of the many snipe around Crail just now that are enjoying the damp ground. The three bar-tailed godwits are still on Balcomie Beach but apart from a handful of ringed plovers, all the other small waders seem to have moved on too. I headed up to the top of Kilminning to find to find some shelter from the wind. There was much more happening around the sunny side of the sycamores there. One or two yellow-browed warblers, and four or more chiffchaffs, with several swallows overhead.

The juvenile male peregrine that has been around Balcomie and Wormiston this week (JA)

This afternoon I checked out lower Kilminning. I missed some whinchat reported from the usual place they frequent near the golf course, so I sat down by the “barred warbler elder bushes” for my usual stake out to see if I could see, well, a barred warbler. This hasn’t been too successful recently, and the last time I got lucky was September 2017. It has been more of a sure thing since last weekend and the favourable winds, and I have been much more hopeful. Even so I have watched the bush on five days this week for well over an hour in total without luck. This time, however, thirty seconds into my watch out popped a barred warbler, right in the middle of the middle elder bush. Almost exactly the same place as the last one two years ago. I had the usual twenty seconds of reasonable view before it disappeared into the centre of the bush, only reappearing very briefy to chase a robin out, that had also been feeding on the elder berries. Birding luck evens out – and all the time I have put in unsuccessfully, finally paid off. I suspect it has been here since last Sunday: barred warblers are notorious skulkers and even when you know they are there, it takes several visits, or several hours, before you get a good view. Even so, there were lots of birders around this week, particularly on Tuesday after the little bunting was seen just 40 meters away, so perhaps it is more likely that it came in with the easterlies and rain on Tuesday night. Barred warblers are long stayers so this bird may be here for the next month. There are lots of elderberries – this may explain why it hasn’t been seen, because there are still lots in dense cover. As these get eaten, then it will have to come out to the more exposed branches. This was the case two years’ ago. If you go looking for it tomorrow, bring a chair, a gin and tonic and patience; next weekend it might be easier to see, but then it might have moved on… The bushes to look at are the elder bushes with roses in the front, about 40 meters south of the ruined small building, in the next “bay” of vegetation.

Barred warbler – this is the 2017 bird, in the same bush as today’s bird, but with many fewer berries, forcing it to come out into the open to find some (JA)

Posted September 28, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 27th   Leave a comment

The red-breasted flycatcher still continues its residency at Craighead today. I am posting one of John’s photos in celebration. I hope it stays over the weekend for the enjoyments of other birders, who will inevitably turn up something else good. Even with the wind change there should still be some good birds about and I am surprised that no lapland buntings have been found yet. It is only a matter of time.

A proper photo of the red-breasted flycatcher still at Craighead today (JA). As John Anderson gets gets better he becomes more of a perfectionist and it is only through my posting of my shabby photos that I can tempt him to post photos that he doesn’t consider quite his best. I can imagine John is very critical of this photo, whereas to the rest of us, this is an absolutely fantastic photo.

Posted September 27, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 26th   Leave a comment

Despite easterlies continuing since the weekend and some very heavy rain overnight and on Tuesday night, I don’t think anything new has come in since Sunday. I was out for a couple of hours today, checking Kilminning and Craighead and I found 4 yellow-browed warblers, two in the same place as Sunday, I saw the red-breasted flycatcher again in exactly the same place, and found a spotted flycatcher at lower Kilminning – one was also reported on Monday so I think it was only a new bird for me. The yellow-browed warblers today were elusive and I had only glimpses. If they hadn’t been calling – and they are not calling much – I wouldn’t have known. I expect there were several I consequently missed today. The red-breasted flycatcher was still showing well. I sat on the wall by the road and waited for it to come to me. I could see it for most of the time in the denser vegetation behind the wall, but every ten minutes or so it would come closer along the wall giving great views. But it was very lively, feeding frantically, and I think it will be moving on this evening if the rain holds off. The wind is now back westerly and it has brightened up accordingly, with the low cloud disappearing by lunchtime: there were quite a few swallows about today as well to add to the more cheerful picture.

Spotted Flycatcher at lower Kilminning today (WC)
The red-breasted flycatcher still at Craighead Cottages (at the turning down to Fife Ness by the golf club) (WC)

Later, I was sea watching early evening and watching the barnacle geese that are still passing Crail in good numbers, when I realised another consequence of the wind becoming westerly. The barnacles earlier in the week were passing high and fast, using the wind to get into the Forth. Now they are passing very low and slow, heading into it. The early goose catches the wind.

Low flying barnacle geese today heading into the wind (JA)

Posted September 26, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 24th   1 comment

Birding luck will even out. This morning I went in search of a little bunting photographed at Kilminning yesterday afternoon, but not identified until late last night. The weather wasn’t great. Windy and frequent rain showers. I trudged around Kilminning for a couple of hours, checking the field edges, the stubble and the bushes in case it was sheltering but no luck. I saw plenty of yellowhammers and one reed bunting that got me going until it hauled itself out to the top of the bush it was in to look less mysterious. I did find my third yellow-browed warbler of the season, calling loudly from the top of a sycamore for a minute. There were a few people out looking all day so the little bunting may well have moved on last night. But the little bunting I found at Balcomie last autumn was equally elusive and they can easily disappear into one of the many stubble fields around Fife Ness – another bunting amongst many. I will keep looking out for it for the next few days just in case.

Sadly not the little bunting – but a reed bunting

Posted September 24, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 23rd   Leave a comment

Yesterday the first barnacle geese of the year were seen past Fife Ness but I was too busy looking for yellow-brows to catch up with them. More were seen passing today and after a minute’s sea watch from my house I also picked up a flock of about 30, low over the sea, heading west into the Forth. Five minutes later, another four. They must have been passing steadily all day. Last year they passed Crail first on the 26th September.

Barnacle geese (JA)

In the excitement of yesterday I forgot to mention a green sandpiper at Fife Ness. I think it probably flew up from stinky pool (the tidal pool just by the road over the golf course), but I only heard it calling as it circled around, getting higher before heading inland towards Kilminning.

Posted September 23, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 22nd   2 comments

Today was a good day. Just one day of easterly and there were new birds to find around Crail. As I cycled up to Kilminning this morning a tree pipit flew over calling twice. There were more chiffchaffs than yesterday in the sycamores both in the upper and lower part, a common whitethroat near the shore, and in the usual south-east corner by the golf course, a whinchat. All of these were new in last night and indicators that there might be more, possibly rarer stuff about, and particularly yellow-browed warblers (the May Island had their first this morning). I checked Balcomie and then the Patch, but nothing more except for some blackcaps chacking in the patch. But as I cycled past the holiday cottages at Craighead, a small neat flycatchery thing flew up from the wall by the road, with some white in its tail, making a clear chacking call, half-way between a robin and a blackcap. I immediately thought of red-breasted flycatcher – it’s a perfect time of year and the perfect set of weather conditions. I got my binoculars on it as it perched in one of the ashes along the edge of the golf course and saw it clearly. A juvenile red-breasted flycatcher with its open face, eyering, a very thin buff wing bar, very pale and unmarked plumage and the characteristic black tail with white sides at the base. It promptly headed off into deeper cover and I watched it for a minute more before putting the news out. A car pulled up behind me and then another two more. “What have you seen?” a voice called. I called back about the flycatcher and suddenly I was surrounded by the Dundee RSPB group excusrsion group – out for a day at Fife Ness – and probably hoping to bump into something like this. True to form the flycatcher took that moment to disappear into a dense bush and there was. A few tense minutes followed as it stayed out of sight, although I could still hear it calling so I was optimistic that it would pop out again. It is the way of red-breasted flycatchers – they keep to dense cover in bushes and under trees, but they come out every so often to a perch on the edge. And they have a circuit so it is best just to stake out where you have seen them once and wait for them to come back. Sure enough it did so and there were a few happy people. I came back later in the afternoon and it was still doing its circuit along the wall, but now joined by a pied flycatcher – another good migrant. I think everyone out today got a reasonable view. They are great little flycatchers and just rare enough that everyone is special even if you have seen a lot. I have been in Crail for so long now that I have lost count of the number of red-breasted flycatchers I have seen on my patch, but it must be double figures by now.

One of the many chiffchaffs today – always a good sign that rare stuff might be about when they are around in the autumn (WC)
The whinchat at Kilmmining (WC)
The red-breasted flycatcher at Craighead today (WC)

I came out this afternoon again to keep looking for yellow-browed warblers. One advantage to cycling everywhere around Crail is you have a better chance of hearing and seeing things in the non-standard places that you pass by – like Craighead this morning. As I passed the main entrance to the airfield I heard a yellow-browed warbler calling from the top of one of the sycamores that form a tunnel over the road up to the entrance to Kilmmining. It was a tricky bird, staying right up in the dense canopy with blue tits, goldcrests and chiffchaffs to act as decoys. And it barely called again. I put the news out and a small crowd gathered – the first yellow-browed warbler of the season in mainland Fife. We will all be a bit more relaxed by the end of the week when a lot more have come in. I gave up looking for a good view and went back to the flycatcher. On the way back however, there was a tit flock closer to kilminning in some more open, lower sycamores and as I checked this flock a second yellow-browed warbler appeared. I had a couple of seconds fantastic view before it did the disappearing trick again. And then as I continued on back to Crail, a merlin flew up from the stubble of the airfield and crossed the road in front of me. Probably the same bird as yesterday but still a final treat to end a good day’s birding. I am very lucky to live in Crail and have so much opportunity on my doorstep. I have described it before as like living next to the sweetie shop – and today the shop was open.

Yellow-browed warbler (JA)

Posted September 22, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 21st   Leave a comment

The wind is round in the east at last and for the next few days. Rain is forecast from Sunday evening onwards. A common rosefinch popped up on the May Island this morning. All set, I hope, for the first proper migrant session of the autumn. It is probably a bit early for anything, but I tried Kilminning and Balcomie this morning. The wind was too strong to find anything, although there were goldcrests and a single chiff-chaff in the more sheltered bit at the top of Kilminning. A juvenile female merlin drifted over before dashing over the stubble field by Balcomie Castle. Surprisingly my first for the year. I usually expect to see several in August and September around Crail.

Young merlin (JA)

Posted September 21, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 20th   Leave a comment

This evening it was very calm and everything was glowing in the late sunlight. Gulls were dipping down to the surface of the sea like terns: kittiwakes, black-headed gulls and even some common gulls. The bright light and the reflection from the sea made a lot of contrast so distant young kittiwakes would look like black terns or even sabines gulls. It was the sort of evening when either might be stopping off by Crail on their way south, but hope sadly doesn’t make things so. The sea wasn’t as flat as it gets but it was flat enough that I could see guillemots and razorbills as specks right to the horizon through my telescope, punctuated by the white slashes of diving gannets passing through my field of view in the foreground. You can seawatch forever on an evening like this – always something to look at and to try to identify, whether a distant duck or diver, but simultaneously also being very calm and relaxed.

Kittiwake (JA)

Posted September 20, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 19th   Leave a comment

A little stint was found at Fife Ness yesterday afternoon and then later on Balcomie Beach. I got back to Crail too late to chase it but went out to the beach at lunchtime today. There were very few waders on the beach – a handful of dunlin and ringed plover, but roosting among them, a little stint. It was a warm afternoon and clearly none of the waders were hungry, barely feeding the half an hour I was there, despite it being low tide. Because it was roosting right next to the dunlins and plovers I could really appreciate just how small little stints are. It is fine thinking about bar-tailed godwits migrating thousands of kilometres on a single fuel tank of fat, and the same then for much smaller knot, but when you realise that little stints do the same – when they are the same size as a sparrow – you realise that birds, and particularly shorebirds, can do almost anything. It was a nice bird to see again on the Crail patch – they are once every two year birds, usually on Balcomie Beach. The rest of the patch remains resolutely quiet with barely anything passing Fife Ness of note while I was there except a few sandwich terns and some wigeon. I did encounter a weasel dashing across the road into a bramble bush as I arrived though, which is always a pleasure to see. I squeaked for a few minutes like a demented mouse but couldn’t tempt it out for a photo – only my dog was interested.

The little stint this afternoon on Balcomie Beach (WC)
Dwarfed by ringed plovers, that aren’t exactly huge themselves (WC)

Posted September 19, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 18th   Leave a comment

Four pale-bellied brent geese came past Crail this evening, heading into the Forth during a brief seawatch: my first of the winter. It’s goose season in September. We get the pink-feet in first, often very early in September, Brents mid September and then Barnacles at the end. The other geese – greylags and bean geese usually turn up in October, and if we are very lucky rarer ones too. We haven’t had a rare goose winter since 2011, when we had a few bean geese (both types) and white-fronted geese with the pink-foot flocks between Crail and Anstruther, or 2007 when we even had a snow goose (from North America) out at Damside, just north of Crail. We need cold weather right across Europe (and further inland in the UK) to bring the rarer geese, and the big pink-footed goose flocks that carry them, to East Neuk fields. This has become a scarce commodity as north-western Europe in particular has warmed up in the winter. It has become hard to tell whether many species that have become scarcer in the UK during winter have just been not bothering to come here because its remains nice in central Europe, or whether they have genuinely declined in population. A bit of both I should think. We can still expect goose winters though, even if they are less frequent, and we can always hope that this winter might just be another one.

A pale-bellied brent goose. Pale-bellieds breed in Spitzbergen and migrate down to the UK coasts for the winter (JA)

Posted September 18, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 17th   Leave a comment

My birding is largely being restricted to sea watching from my house in the evening at the moment, and as the nights are drawing in, this opportunity is getting less and less. This evening it was already getting dark by 6:45, but between 6:10 and 6:35 I had two arctic skua, one great skua, a sooty shearwater, two manx shearwaters, a flock of pink-footed geese and a red-throated diver past, all going east except for the diver and the geese. There were lots of kittiwakes rafting far out and a steady stream of gannets – now nearly 50:50 adults versus juveniles. It looks like it has been a great year for the gannets on the Bass Rock.

Juvenile gannet, newly departed from the Bass Rock (JA)

Posted September 17, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 15th   Leave a comment

This weekend has been a continuation of the theme of the last three weeks – steady westerly winds and little unusual migration – although with a bit of a gale on Saturday. At least the pink-footed geese have been coming in all weekend. Today there were flocks flying past Crail, but most far out to sea, battling against the wind as they flew past the May Island into the inner Forth. Some flocks came directly over Crail as it was getting dark, but high and it was only the distant honking that gave them away. It is a clear, moonlit night so I expect them to keep coming. The autumn is really here when the pink-feet arrive in big numbers. Another clear sign of autumn – the steady passage of meadow pipits flying from east to west along the coast over Crail – has been going on all week.

Pink-footed geese coming in off the sea (JA)

It was a little bit depressing at Kilminning on Saturday. The wind made birding difficult and I suspect there wasn’t anything there anyway: even the blackcaps have now moved on. I tried walking across a few stubble fields looking for Lapland buntings but the fields are still empty – only one or two yellowhammers and meadow pipits, and no skylarks as yet. The best bird was a female type marsh harrier quartering over the stubble at Blacklaws Farm, just north of Kilrenny this morning. 

Marsh harrier near Crail (JA)

Posted September 15, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 12th   Leave a comment

Still not much change. The waders are more or less the same at Balcomie – lots of dunlin and ringed plover, a few sanderling and three bar-tailed godwits. There were three northern wheatears at the north end rocks and these are probably some of the same birds as last week, although there are fewer this week. Kilminning was very quiet apart from the flocks of swallows catching insects around the sycamore canopies, some goldcrests and a few blackcaps – the whitethroats and willow warblers have all gone now. There were two siskin in at the lower part of Kilminning – the first of the winter for me. And down in the place where they often turn up, along the road past the water treatment building towards the golf course, a whinchat feeding beside a stonechat. The whinchat is likely to be a migrant from the west of Scotland rather than an indication of rarer birds from the east, but still a nice autumn bird that I will be following to Nigeria and Liberia later this coming winter. 

Whinchat left, and stonechat right foraging together and in the same way at Kilminning this morning (WC)

I watched a sparrowhawk hunting along the shore below Kilminning, putting up everything including gulls even though it was a small male. A flock of 30 lapwings resting on the shore flew off, bunching up in a dense group in response to the hawk before they headed south. I am seeing sparrowhawks hunting along the shore nearly every visit but as yet no merlins this autumn.

One of the sparrowhawks hunting along the shore out at Fife Ness, Balcomie and Kilmminning at the moment (JA)

Posted September 12, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 10th   Leave a comment

Most birds finished breeding two months ago and only the very big species like gannets are still to completely finish. But you can still see some late fledglings, particularly house sparrows, swallow and house martins chasing their parents. The giveaway for a fledgeling songbird – apart from the general dopey, fluffy look – is a yellow gape. This is an enlarged and conspicuous side of the mouth so that when a chick begs in the nest it offers the biggest brightest target for the parent. You can imagine that those chicks with the most conspicuous mouths get fed more often and are more likely to survive until fledging – a good example of natural selection.

A young swallow in my garden over the weekend with its yellow gape conspicuous. This has less than a month to feed up before it needs to head to Africa (WC)

Posted September 10, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 9th   2 comments

I should have kept my sooty shearwater complaint to myself. Two minutes sea watching this evening from my house and a sooty shearwater came past. After thousands of fulmars and hundreds of manx shearwaters this autumn, it looked so dark and distinctive with its powerful wing beats, and then a quick flash of silver as it banked out of site behind the Marine Hotel that demarcates the end of my sea watching view. The last sooty shearwater I saw this year was in the Beagle Channel in Tierra del Fuego in March – it and its friends were hanging out with black-browed albatrosses, giant petrels, magallenic penguins and sei whales. My sooty shearwater today won’t have been one of those birds but then again, it could be.

Sooty shearwater – this is one my favourite photos of John’s and I have posted it before and will again I’m sure to celebrate this epic global wanderer

Posted September 9, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 8th   Leave a comment

There was a hint of an easterly today, with a few things turning up including a rarity on the May Island (a collared flycatcher from Eastern Europe or Sweden), and there is some rain over night. There were two white wagtails on Balcomie Beach amongst the pied wagtails – a very pale winter plumage bird and an obvious male still in summer plumage. White wagtails will be leaving Scandinavia and northern Europe at the moment in very large numbers so a few always end up on the east coast, the trick is remembering to check the pied wagtails. I was on the beach at high tide, so no sign of the curlew sandpiper, but it wasn’t reported later on in the day so it may have moved on.

One of the bar-tailed godwits still on Balcomie Beach that I am now beginning to hope might be staying for the winter (JA)

I hit 150 on my Crail year list with a black-throated diver flying past Fife Ness as I sat there in the sun this morning. This time in September seems to be the best time to see a black-throat passing. They tend to fly over Fife Ness quite high, cutting the corner off – a good reason not to sit in the hide when the weather is good. Today’s black-throat was obligingly with a red-throated diver following it, so its larger size and more bulky neck and feet were more obvious, although not as ridiculously large and hefty as as a great northern. When I added the diver to my year list I had a think about what I was missing this year and noticed that I had forgotten to add shelduck in March – so 151. 11 short of the record and with several likely species still to come (brambling, redpoll, yellow-browed warbler). With a bit of luck… 

It is good to think in lists because you focus on what you have missed. Sooty shearwaters are the most conspicuous by their absence this year. There have been less than 10 recorded at Fife Ness so far, when by this time there may have been hundreds. I hopefully put in another half an hour late afternoon seawatching from my house in Crail as the wind got up a bit. Hundreds of gannets and lots of fulmars past, a few common scoters, kittiwakes, arctic and sandwich terns, and a single great skua and a manx shearwater. But still no sooty. Today must have been a good fledging day for the gannets on the Bass Rock with about 1 in 40 of the gannets being juveniles. Most surprising were a few puffins heading east – they should be far out to sea now for the winter.

A juvenile gannet (straight out of the box as John would say) (JA)

Posted September 8, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 7th   Leave a comment

Although the winds are wrong, it feels wrong not to check out Kilminning at this time of year. And there could be a barred warbler hiding out there after the mid-August easterlies. There were a few migrants this morning, although all probably from the west. There were juvenile willow warblers mixed in with a big mixed flock of tits and goldcrests. And there were blackcaps chacking everywhere, enjoying the elderberries. The most obvious were the swallows. It is hard now to tell the residents from the birds passing through. It was a lovely day today with little wind so the swallows weren’t in a hurry, congregating in flocks around the sycamore canopies. A sparrowhawk passing through on a hunt got short shrift as it was suddenly dive bombed by twenty mobbing swallows – no chance of surprise with that much aerial surveillance.

One the blackcaps feasting on elder berries at Kilminning today (WC)

I was back at Balcomie this afternoon watching the still present curlew sandpiper and the other waders dodging the walkers around the beach. I think it bothered me more than the birds, with only a few minutes lost over the hour I sat there because they settled back on another bit of the beach straight away. In the end all the waders finished up on the less attractive (to walkers) more rocky and algae covered south section– and this was the bit where I was sitting, so it all worked out in the end. There was a fourth bar-tailed godwit but otherwise the same waders as yesterday I think.

The curlew sandpiper, closer today (JA)
And also far… (WC)

At Fife Ness there was a steady skua passage going north but with most birds except for a dark phase arctic skua very far out. I identified about 6 great skuas in 30 minutes but there was the same number of unidentified ones in the distance. I was really looking for sooty shearwaters, which have been very scarce and I haven’t seen one this year: there were a lot of fulmars passing and about 8 manx shearwaters but still no sooty.

Fulmars (JA)

Posted September 7, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

September 6th   Leave a comment

If at first you don’t succeed…Back to Balcomie Beach and a successful curlew sandpiper hunt today. Luckily this time at low tide, when the beach is much more resilient to people. The waders can retreat to the other side of the beach when someone walks across – at high tide there is little space away from people. I appreciate this because I had to watch someone walking out to take some photos of the shorebirds with their phone (you do have to get close): this is fair enough, if a bit of a futile wild shorebird chase but less so when it happens right in front of your telescope and you are sitting, in a well-behaved fashion, at the top of the beach. Most people get it and walk behind me when I am watching something, but occasionally they spectacularly don’t. Anyway, the curlew sandpiper bounced about all over the beach staying out of the way, but did not leave. A nice bird, and standing out among the dunlins – longer legs and neck giving a much more elegant and slender look, and a much paler and uniform plumage. You have to get your eye in, but once you have, they are very distinctive. I realise I write something like this every time a curlew sandpiper turns up in Crail but they are one of the landmark species in the journey to becoming a good birder: being able to pick out a curlew sandpiper in a flock of dunlin is a qualification you have to pass, like being able to split common and arctic terns, tree and meadow pipits, ringed and little ringed plovers and so on (more or less forever because there are always the antwrens and the petrels even for the very, very good birders). I was happier cycling back to Crail than my return last night although my slow progress reminded me that the winds are still firmly from the west.

The curlew sandpiper at Balcomie this afternoon – you can really see how slender and curlew like they look – but small of course, with the ringed plover on the right for scale (WC)
The curlew sandpiper and a couple of dunlin on the left to show how different they are. You can also just see its white rump poking out – it is a great feature when you only get a flyby (WC)
The curlew sandpiper close up (JA)

Posted September 6, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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