June 22nd   2 comments

Now is the best time of year to see puffins from Crail. They are feeding chicks and tens of thousands of puffins are passing in and out of the Forth, with many passing Crail, every day. Today for instance they were close enough in at Sauchope that you could recognise them without binoculars – their red bills, white faces and rugby ball shape making them easily identifiable. There was a little bit of a seabird festival there – many of the auks were on the water including puffins, razorbills and guillemots, with kittiwakes and arctic terns swooping down among them. And then a pod of about ten bottle-nosed dolphins passed through, surfacing every ten seconds and making steady progress to Fife Ness. There were a lot of dolphin sightings from Crail last week but this was the first time I have been lucky. A pile of seabirds and some dolphins on your doorstep makes you realise things aren’t all bad.

Bottle-nosed dolphins (JA)

There were some early returning waders this morning. Four knot, all in winter plumage, at Balcomie, and then a golden plover, and at Sauchope, the first lapwing. It made me realise they have been conspicuous in their absence this spring. I don’t think there are any breeding in the fields around Crail this year, although I have been out much less to the north-west of Crail, where they usually breed, because of lockdown. It is such a shame – lapwings need the damp patches in fields to do well and these have all been systematically drained over the last decade. We only ever had about 3-4 pairs within a couple of kilometers of Crail, but now it seems we have none. At least we still have flocks of them wintering with us, and often roosting on the rocks with the golden plovers at Sauchope.

Lapwing displaying over a Crail field a few years ago (JA)

Posted June 22, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

2 responses to “June 22nd

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  1. Hi Will. Over the last few weeks we’ve noticed two blackbirds coming into our garden regularly. They are ringed which strikes me as being unusual. One is male and one is female. I have tried to photograph the rings but my camera is not up to it. The rings are silver coloured. Is there a story behind this? We are in Temple Crescent and enjoyed the Rosy Starling excitement last week. Roddy

    • Dear Roddy,
      Metal ringed birds are not unusual and there are a few ringers in the area, and one person has just started again in Crail. If they are local birds, locally caught then it’s not too much of a coincidence that you get a couple in your garden. That said it could be a spectacular coincidence of a bird ringed in Norway and another in Dumfries that dispersed to Crail. With metal rings you have to recatch the bird or find it dead to read the ring – that said there are some hard core Dutch bird photographers that specialise in getting sufficiently close up and good enough photos to read the ring…Every year tens of thousands of blackbirds are ringed by the network of amateur ringers around the UK and many more in Europe. Some of these do get recovered and recaught so we gradually build up an important picture of migration movements and survival. Any person metal ringing birds will have served an apprenticeship, training for sometimes 10 years before they get their own licence to do it independently. The extra survival cost of ringing (catching and then wearing the very lightweight metal ring) is equivalent to the decrease in life expectancy a human might experience every time they get on a train – the tiny risk is worth the great amount of information we gain to use to conserve wild bird populations. The benefit to you is that you will be able to keep track of your resident blackbirds – ringed birds are sufficiently rare in the population that even a metal ring can serve as a local individual identification feature. These individuals could be in your garden for years to come.

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