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

2 responses to “September 22nd

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  1. Thanks for helping us get onto the Red Breasted Flycatcher Will. We had new members in our group so your help was, as always, much appreciated. It was a shame we missed the Yellow Browed Warblers, but hey ho that’s the nature of the game.

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