March 28th   Leave a comment

A cold north-easterly today. With the rain and easterlies of the last two days there was a reasonable hope for a black redstart somewhere along my morning circuit. Balcomie castle, by the new asparagus field, along the eastern wall of the horse field, is consistently the best place to check. But it was quiet today. Six bar-tailed godwits on Balcomie Beach were the only obvious new birds (and another chiffchaff later in my garden). They breed a long way north and so not until June, so why these birds are on the move now I don’t know. Particularly when they are one of the most (the most?) flight capable bird in the world, able to fly from Alaska to New Zealand in a single non-stop 9 day flight…Getting from here to Novaya Zemyla in Siberia would be less than 2 days’ flight.

Four of the six bar-tailed godwits on Balcomie Beach this morning
Bar-tailed godwit (JA)

I sheltered behind the blockhouse at Fife Ness for 15 minutes while a hail storm blew in from the North Sea. The hide is out of bounds at the moment. I prefer to sit outside anyway. There was not a lot of passage despite the winds. A distant pink-footed goose, razorbills, common scoters and gannets, and a flock of 14 purple sandpipers on the low tide rocks.

Purple sandpiper (JA)

If you have walked through Beech Walk Park in the last few days on your exercise period you will have noticed the great spotted woodpeckers. There is a pair breeding in the top of one of the large beech trees on the Kirk side. The male has been drumming away nearly every day this week. Everyone can recognise a woodpecker drumming – it is surprisingly loud, rapid and echoing. The male chooses a hollow branch so it gets a proper drumming sound. They bash so hard and frequently (the original headbanger) that woodpeckers have evolved cushioning between the beak and their brain. This afternoon I could hear it drumming even from my front garden on the High Street (again the silver lining of a quiet Crail) – I checked my garden bird list and I hadn’t added great spotted woodpecker yet. I feel sure I must have had one in the 16 years I have been here – they are always around Denburn which is only a few hundred meters away. But then maybe not. Anyway – it is on my list now. Garden lists are probably going to grow for everyone on the next few weeks as we contemplate our own backyard rather than chasing the exotic. This takes my garden bird list up to 132 species. If you haven’t seen a great spotted woodpecker – and anyone with a bird feeder in Crail is likely to have seen one in their garden already – they are worth seeking out. Boldly black and white with flashes of scarlet. They are the only species of woodpecker in Crail. We had a green woodpecker in the Kirkyard for a few days in August about 13 years ago so you shouldn’t be in any doubt that it’s a great spotted woodpecker if you see one in Crail. Now I have said that, we will have a green woodpecker again this year. I hope so – they occur further west in Fife, but are uncommon even there. They often feed on the ground on ants, and are big birds, so they are also well worth seeking out. 

Great spotted woodpecker (JA)

Posted March 28, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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