December 8th   Leave a comment

It’s hard to sustain an interesting narrative at this time of year. The days are very short and have been mostly wet and dark this week. This weekend, at least for some of today, has been a bit brighter. But the birds remain the same. There’s still a lot to see but the chance of seeing something even slightly out of the ordinary is greatly reduced because everything is staying put, conserving energy and keeping out of the way. This morning for example I sat in the hide at Fife Ness and watched an energetic sea chased by a south-westerly gale but hardly saw anything apart from gulls, eiders, oystercatchers and shags. In thirty minutes only one auk passed – too far out to identify – a red-throated diver and a turnstone. It is always nice to look at a wild sea, especially when you are sheltered from the storm in a hide but its nicer to see something passing over it. I am really missing the gannets. In a few months there will be hundreds passing in any thirty minutes and it seems an empty sea just now without them.

Balcomie Beach remains mostly a show of sanderling and redshank, with eiders and gulls in the surf, and now about six goldeneye on the sea a little further out. It was high tide at midday and the sanderling were half feeding, half roosting on a raft of washed in seaweed on the tideline. It was precarious and every so often a strong wave would send the flock flying up to circle over the sea before returning. Sanderling seem to be so full of energy it seems impossible that they gain enough of it when feeding. 

Male goldeneye (JA)
Sanderling – always on the move (JA)

There are a lot of pink-footed geese about, especially as you head out towards St Monans. I walked from Kilrenny to Crail yesterday morning and there were small flocks regularly heading along the coast or coming down into the soggy fields. It is certainly weather for ducks and geese. There is a really nice flooded field pool just above the old pig fields between Kilrenny and Caiplie and visible from the road as you drive from Crail to Anstruther. It has about 20 mallard on it and a few curlews strutting around the edge. I scanned it optimistically for some more exotic duck but with no luck. There was a single pintail that used to spend the winter with the mallards at Kilrenny but it hasn’t been there for a couple of winters now. Mallards are real opportunists which explains their widespread success in the habitats we create or change. They can use water bodies of any size and type and happily move around to exploit transient pools. And of course they can just head down to the rock pools of the coast when it gets really dry. Other duck species need specific depths of water, or more constant lakes, so they are rare in the East Neuk. I still haven’t seen a shoveller or a pochard for the Crail list: we really need a lake. Especially for a dull winter’s weekend.

A flock of pink-footed geese coming in to land in a wet stubble field (JA)

Posted December 8, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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