December 26th   Leave a comment

On Christmas Eve I was up at Carnbee Reservoir hoping for a smew to add to the patch list. Lots of the usual ducks – goldeneyes, teal, wigeon, tufted duck and mallard; six or so little grebes and a water rail calling back to my playback from the rushy area at the far end. That made 168 for my Crail year list, so definitively beating my previous best year list of 161. I should think that is it for this year. Looking over the fields sloping down to the Forth I could see lots of small flocks of pink-footed geese flying about. There has been a lot of back and forth this year, from Fife to the Lothians.

Pink-footed geese flying over Carnbee on Christmas Eve (WC)

Christmas Day was beautifully sunny and clear. I watched the black redstart, first thing, working its way along the back of the beach, using the concrete, the fences and the gabions as perches to launch down onto the beach below to grab a sandhopper or a seaweed fly. It is very restless and doesn’t like to be approached. The best bet is to sit on the beach and wait for it to come to you as it makes its circuit, or better still, look down on it from the path above.

Crail Beach Robin 1 (JA)
Crail Beach Robin 2 (WC)
Pied wagtail keeping both beach robins company on Roome Bay Beach

This morning I sat for 30 minutes in the hide at Fife Ness, vaguely hopeful with a southerly wind. The gannets were back at least – five in total. A few guillemots and kittiwakes, two red-throated divers and quite a few fulmars passing but far out. On Balcomie Beach there were three purple sandpipers among the sanderling, looking very odd as they kept pace, running with them and picking at the surf’s edge as if they had had a species transplant.

Purple sandpiper (JA)

This afternoon I decided to go and see one of the smews that are about locally this year, even if they haven’t quite made Crail yet. I walked around Cameron Reservoir. There was a male smew – two have been there all December – with a flock of goldeneye, about 20 goosander, lots of mallard, teal and wigeon. Male smew are a very handsome black and snowy white, a very wintery duck. I have never seen a smew without feeling cold. As I walked back along the conifers that line the south edge of the reservoir I heard and then saw a flock of five crossbills flying over the trees. Crossbills occasionally come over Crail in irruption years (like waxwings they have good breeding seasons every so often and spill over eastwards from Russia and Scandinavia into the UK), but usually in July or August, although I haven’t had them on the year list for many years. I checked the distance to Crail – 15 km exactly so not even close to being within my 10 km patch boundary. Perhaps I should make it 10 miles.

Distant smew at Cameron reservoir today (WC)

Posted December 26, 2019 by wildcrail in Sightings

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