April 15th   Leave a comment

The good dry weather continues – we haven’t had any rain of note for 4 weeks now. The wind is swirling around a bit, but predominantly south-west. The rate of arrival of summer migrants has slowed, with little new in over the last couple of days. But I did have a tree pipit at upper Kilminning this morning – it may be the first I have had in Crail in the spring. They are usually an August species. Tree pipits are very like meadow pipits except in their call – a buzzing “tzeep” rather than the thin “tsip-tsip” of a meadow pipit. Luckily tree pipits call a lot when flying so they are usually easy to pick up. The last tree pipits I saw were in January, in Liberia, and then lots in Nigeria in November. I see many more on the wintering grounds than in Crail – even though they breed in the west of Scotland and the Highlands, it is a good year for Crail if I see (or more likely hear) more than a handful. On one memorable evening in central Nigeria last November I watched hundreds of tree pipits coming in to a communal roost in a bit of scrubby woodland. They are common birds in farmland and degraded woodland – sometimes the more burnt and chopped the better – all over sub-Saharan Africa in winter. Like the swallows last week, today’s tree pipit connects me with warmer days and more exotic places.

Tree pipit in Scotland (JA)
Tree pipit in Liberia
And in the same tree as the tree pipit above…familiar but then not quite. An African cuckoo – very much like a common cuckoo we might expect through Crail in a couple of weeks, but the less-migratory form that only migrates in Africa south of the Sahara.

There were some lingering winter migrants this morning. A pair of greylag geese at Balcomie, and a fieldfare at Kilminning. There have been a few flocks of greylag geese over Crail in the last few days. Greylag geese make a grumpy honking just like the archetypal farmyard goose that everyone knows, if not directly, from any period TV countryside drama. If you get a close view, their orange bills and a very pale forewing also make them easy to identify.

Greylag geese (JA)

Posted April 15, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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