Archive for November 2019

November 27th   Leave a comment

It has been a while. I returned back to Crail last Friday and I don’t think I have seen much daylight since – certainly no sun at all, to contrast with my two weeks before. And it’s been raining a lot I can see – my weather station is up to 83 mm this month which is close to, if not a record breaking monthly total. I finally got back out to Balcomie Beach this morning in the mist and near gloaming. The beach is covered with seaweed indicating the easterlies that must have been going on while I was away. With seaweed, lots of birds of course. Hundreds of starling and tens of black-headed gulls all over, with sanderling, turnstones, redshanks, oystercatchers, curlews and two bar-tailed godwit closer to the sea. There was a group of male goldeneye in the surf and further out wigeon and red-throated divers passing. No gannets at all – they are off on their winter break to the Bay of Biscay or further south. It was too dark to take photos – instead I’ll post some African pictures to brighten things up.

A whinchat fitted with a geolocator last year – I haven’t recaught this one yet
A whinchat ringed last year but with no geolocator fitted to act as a control: I got exactly the same proportion of these birds back as those fitted with tags showing they have no effect on survival
I caught this whinchat just after dawn ten days ago and retrieved its geolocator: I set the nets at 4 am and watched the shooting stars until the whinchat woke up and obligingly flew straight into a net
An unringed whinchat – hundreds were still passing through on their way south
A red-billed hornbill
Green woodhoopoes – they live in tight knit family groups
Sunset over central Nigeria

Posted November 27, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

November 7th   Leave a comment

I was out at Kilminning first thing this morning and yesterday dodging the rain showers and hoping for a late season migrant brought on by easterlies of the last few days. I am off to Nigeria today so it makes me a bit edgy that something very rare is about to turn up – this late it is unlikely but some very good birds have been turning up along the east coast over the last few days. I didn’t find anything except a late season chiff-chaff. Yesterday there was a common and a black redstart about: they may well be still about. It is very hard to find things in heavy rain and they are unlikely to have gone somewhere else overnight considering the weather. I did see lots of fieldfares both days and a huge flock of hundreds in the field just to the north of Kingsbarns this morning. These are migrants in from the continent for the winter. Normally they don’t stop long in the East Neuk but perhaps the weather is also keeping them from moving on. Although I may miss a late season migrant as I head south with them, I won’t miss the current weather.

One of the many late season chiff-chaffs that have turned up at Kilminning this year – taken last week by John when the sun was still shining (JA)

Posted November 7, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

November 3rd   Leave a comment

It is still blowing a good breeze from the east although it is a swirling easterly around a low in the North Sea rather than a wind blowing across from the continent. Still it inspires hope, especially with the frequent rain showers for the last 24 hours. I spent 30 minutes in the hide at Fife Ness, grateful for the shelter. Viewing conditions are the best on days like these. Bright, but grey, making the birds contrast well, and the showers removing any dust or haze so you can see well to the horizon. Sadly, not much to see though. Gannets and a few auks and kittiwakes; a flock of male long-tailed ducks heading north, barely visible between the wave troughs, and a goosander and a male goldeneye doing the same.

Male goldeneye (JA)

When I arrived at Kilminning on the way back to Crail I immediately heard the high, soft ringing trill of a waxwing. I thought it was bird flying over but I kept hearing it. I found the bird on top of a willow, being buffeted in the breeze, calling constantly and looking around intently to find some companions. Waxwings are very, very gregarious and spend the whole winter in big flocks moving from berry bush to berry bush. It looked very lonely, and after five minutes it flew off strongly towards Crail, still calling. Waxings are very boom and bust birds for Crail, and Scotland in general. Some winters we have them everywhere and they become familiar to people because they are tame and like supermarket car parks (which are often planted with berry bearing rowan or whitebeam trees) and gardens. Other winters they are a great rarity. The last one I saw in Crail was 2012 so it has been a while, although I am often away in November when they tend to pass through here on their way further inland. The waxwing today may the first of many so it is worth checking out your garden this week, particularly if you have a big berry bearing bush or tree.

The lonely waxwing at Kilminning this morning (WC)
Waxwing (JA)

Posted November 3, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

November 2nd   Leave a comment

There has been some late season migration going on at the end of this week. This morning I put up two woodcock at Kilminning and then a long-eared owl. It was roosting in a dense sycamore by the top entrance and I only found it because I was following a flock of long-tailed tits deeper into cover. The owl flew to the edge of the road and perched, glaring at me. I could appreciate its distinctive orange eyes and even its “ears” – you hardly ever get to see them, but this bird had stuck up its feather tufts on either side of its head in annoyance at me disturbing it. I should think it came in last night after crossing the North Sea from Scandinavia and had pitched down into the first trees it found to escape the heavy rain. Long-eared owls are strictly nocturnal. You only ever see them in daylight if you find them roosting or flush them, or catch one out still crossing the sea. The long-eared owl this morning took off again after about half a minute of regarding me through the trees. It flew off to roost in the corner of the walled garden at Balcomie until disturbed again and it headed off towards Fife Ness. Later in the morning I saw a short-eared owl coming in off the sea at Fife Ness. Another Scandinavian migrant, but one much happier with flying in daylight. It’s nice to see the pair of them so close together (it’s been 6 years since I have seen a long-eared owl in Crail – 166 for the year list as well) to appreciate their differences. Long-eared owls are much more orangey brown in colour, rather than yellowy brown (and they have bright orange eyes rather than bright yellow eyes), and are much less stripey than short-eared owls. They look more camouflaged – like a woodcock – whereas short-eared owls have more distinct black barring and black wing tips. But its all pretty subtle. Luckily, long-eared owls tend roost in dense trees and fly straight back to cover when flushed, and short-eared owls tend to roost on the ground, in long grass, and go for long, high and airey flights when flushed.

Long-eared owl (JA)
Short-eared owl (JA)

Posted November 2, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

%d bloggers like this: