July 20th   Leave a comment

I had one of my wildlife highlights of the year today. An hour spent just a few meters from a flock of two hundred dunlin. I went down to Fife Ness in search of a little stint reported at lunchtime at Stinky Pool. When I got there, there were only a happy family of rock poolers and obviously no birds. I wasn’t too worried because stints at Fife Ness tend to relocate to Balcomie Beach. My heart fell though when I got to the beach, lots of people, and although there was a big flock of waders, they soon headed to the horizon as another couple of walkers went by. I walked north to the far end as the beach cleared of people and was heartened by a large flock of small waders feeding on the strandline as the shore becomes rocky again. I began a slow approach, staying right up against the dunes and taking my time. After a few minutes I was sat just eight meters away from lots of dunlin, with some sanderling and ringed plover mixed in. The flock was amazingly accepting of me and I felt invisible. I was incredibly privileged to be so close to so many wild birds. Not for long – more walkers of course, and the tide was right up so there was nowhere to walk apart from straight past, between me and the dunlins. All my effort and field craft wasted – or so I thought – the flock barely moved. Some birds flew out to sea for a few meters but returned immediately, and many just remained feeding, although a bit more warily. I needn’t have bothered with my stealth approach. The coastal path was busy today and a steady stream of walkers passed me and the dunlins (some completely oblivious to the birds nearly at their feet), and yet they stayed put. There is something special about being close to animals when they know you are there, but they are clearly not bothered about your presence. Even better when they come to you, which is why garden bird feeders appeal so much. I was so close that I could see the sandhoppers like a tiny blizzard erupting out of the sand at the tideline, and the see birds targeting those that landed on top of the water, temporarily slowing them down enough to be picked up with a quick bill stab. It is wader season at Balcomie – I may have missed the little stint today but the signs are good for more waders to come this year. Yesterday I had two black-tailed godwits, only one hundred dunlin, and no sanderlings. Things are changing every day, although the dunlin fest should continue for a few more days, with high tide, late afternoon the best time to see it.

Dunlins at Balcomie Beach this afternoon

Posted July 20, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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