October 23rd   Leave a comment

Everytime I go anywhere in Crail I hear grey wagtails flying over. We must have several birds wintering in town this year. They occasionally breed but mostly they are a winter visitor, commuting up and down the Denburn and the Brandyburn, or hanging around the wet rocks and cliffs of Roome Bay. Despite their name, most people notice that they are bright yellow underneath (the males particularly so). They do wag their long tails so they then get identified as “yellow” wagtails. It’s one of the commonest misidentifications I get asked about. Yellow wagtails are a different species, yellow above as well as below, and they are a rare passage or now uncommon summer breeder just outside of Crail. Correctly identifying them is fairly easy if you follow the rule of summer and fields = yellow wagtail and winter and wet rocks, rooves or pavements = grey wagtail. The best place to reliably see a grey wagtail at the moment is along the burn in Denburn. There are a couple of quite tame birds there although they will fly away when approached closely, a flash of bounding yellow, with a metallic “zit – zit” call as they go. The yellow wagtails are now all in sub-Saharan Africa and I will see them again when I am in Nigeria next month. They have been breeding near Crail for the last four years and this year I am fairly sure we had 5 nests involving 2-3 pairs, which fledged at least two, probably three broods of chicks. This is great news – the only nesting pair in Fife, I think, and the species has only ever been a very scarce breeder anywhere in Scotland. It has been declining as with most other summer migrants. I am hopeful we will have even more nesting pairs next spring – but April seems a long way away just now.

A Crail grey wagtail (JA)
And a Crail yellow wagtail – from this year, utilising old school geotagging of the photo (WC)

Posted October 23, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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