April 4th   Leave a comment

I often start by talking about the wind. At this time of year, the wind is everything. Maybe at any time of year. I expect a big change in what is about Crail any day now – with summer migrants popping up everywhere – but it depends on the wind. The forecast tomorrow and the next day is really promising – very strong winds blowing straight up from Iberia. Perfect for overshooting migrants, maybe even a hoopoe. Today though was much like the last ten. A few more chiffchaffs about and a big flock of meadow pipits on the driving range at Balcomie (they had the field to themselves). Apart from the bird song and the noise from the sea it was amazingly quiet. Saturday and Sunday at Balcomie are usually the noisiest days of the week with the kart track and skid pan going full tilt: today the only motor I heard was a grass mower from the golf course, and then barely above the din of the skylarks.

As I sat at Fife Ness watching a very slow passage of seabirds – although the gannets were passing by very close inshore so I can’t complain – I thought about the birds that are gradually disappearing for the summer. The goldeneyes have already gone – back to a Highland or Swedish Loch, the black-headed gulls have nearly gone, and the red-breasted mergansers, common gulls and red-throated divers are passing by on their way north. It’s much easier to notice the first one in than the last one out.

Black-headed gull – all the adults have more or less gone now for the summer, headed inland to breed by lochs and in marshes (JA)
Red-breasted mergansers – they are leaving us for the summer too (JA)

There have been a few hares hanging around in the wheat field just to the east of Balcomie Caravan Park on the outskirts of Crail. The crop is still low like park grass so they stand out even when they are hunkered down. Hares don’t burrow like rabbits and barely make any kind of shelter. They rely on speed rather than refuge. I watched three chasing each other a couple of days ago in a mad March mating chase even though it is April. They chase and fight each other for another couple of months but once the crops grow you don’t see it as obviously as you do in March.

Brown hare by Balcomie Caravan Park

On my way back to Crail this morning through Sauchope I saw some rocks suddenly shuffle off as I went past. A small roost of purple sandpiper and turnstone. They really are very well camouflaged on a rocky shore and unless they move or you see them in profile against the sea you have no idea they are there. Counting purple sandpipers at low tide is a futile exercise. You need to find out where they are roosting. Once you have seen one then you can gradually pick out the rest of the flock. We probably have about 50 purple sandpipers on the shore between Crail and Fife Ness, but there could easily be double that number. You can see purple sandpipers in Roome Bay. The best way is to check the turnstones on the beach below the cliffs at high tide. It’s not a sure thing but every so often there are one or two purple sandpipers among them. They are much easier to spot when they feed on the beach.

My cryptic purple sandpipers (three of them) and a turnstone

Posted April 4, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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