October 19th   2 comments

About 25 millimeters of rain fell yesterday and overnight. It was particularly intense early this morning and Crail was awash by first light. There was a river (well a large stream) running down the St Andrews Road and then down the High Street, the bottom end of Denburn Wood and the top of the sheep field was turned into a pond, and there was a burn again running through the sheep field all the way down to Roome Bay. I have to say the sheep field looked quite good with water running through it. The Brandyburn was a fantastic torrent as well. Roome Bay was full of silt washed down from the fields.

Denburn Wood transformed
Just needs an alligator and a waterthrush…

The rain and the silt in Roome Bay didn’t put off the goosanders. There was a flock of six feeding in the shallow water close in. They were fishing cooperatively, forming a line to drive the fish, each bird holding their head underwater as they went forward, looking for any fish that broke cover as the line passed. Then a bird would dive completely under the water and more often than not come up with one. But then the cooperation broke down. Any larger fish that couldn’t be swallowed immediately, or that was wasn’t positioned in the bill for a quick swallow, was fair game. And one of the other goosanders would attempt to steal it in a paddlewheeling chase. This seemed to be a much less successful strategy than trying to fish. A lot of splashing and wasted time, and probably indigestion as the bird being chased bolted down the fish as fast as it could. With goosanders, like cormorants and herons, you can see the bulge and even the shape of the fish as it goes down their throat: it looks uncomfortable.

Goosanders co-operating… (WC)
Goosanders cheating (WC)
Goosander fishing (JA)

The rain stopped by mid-morning, but the strong north-easterly wind continued. It seemed like there should have been better seabirds, and this morning it looked excellent with hundreds of auks and gannets passing Crail close in to get shelter as they headed east. But there were few kittiwakes, which seem to have to be present in good numbers for a good seabird day. In about 90 minutes of sea watching from Crail I only had two great skuas and a sooty shearwater of note. Later at Fife Ness it was similar. Plenty going by, but nothing out of the ordinary. I did at last get sight of the kingfisher that I have been hearing down there for the last few weeks. I was whistling my dog – after today I now realise I use a kingfisher whistle – and the kingfisher answered back, even flying up to perch on a rock at the edge of stinky pool to have a look at the intruder in its territory. Kingfisher shyness got the better of it immediately though and it flew back to disappear again into the rocks by the sea.

Guillemot at Fife Ness. There were lots passing Crail this morning leaving the Forth

Posted October 19, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

2 responses to “October 19th

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  1. Nice blog and great photos! I initially noticed your “goosander vs fish” capture. That looks like a big fish (do you know what type?) caught and staring down the captors throat here! It looks like some 4-way struggle for dinner or the life (the fishes).

    So the bird managed the struggle and gulped the fish all the way down okay? Does the fish put up a good fight, I wonder if it stands any slim chance of damaging (biting, sharp fins, wriggling etc.) the bird’s elastic gullet or even escaping it if eaten in that condition?! Sorry for all the questions, but thanks for the feedback/information! 😉

    • I don’t know what type of fish. Yes the bird gulped it down – didn’t look too hard actually. The spines must cause some damage, but I suspect their gullets are very muscular and tough. I agree, that sometimes fish must get away because they are too difficult to swallow, even if they are partially swallowed and regurgitated. Goosanders don’t have teeth so it will just be a physical mauling rather than any wounding that the fish goes through – and it will be alive a little while after being swallowed, I suspect, before being suffocated.

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