August 23rd   Leave a comment

I walked down Kenly Water from Boarhills this morning, sitting at the river mouth for a while before crossing it (low tide) and returning through the fields. It’s a nice walk. The river has very large trees along it, and runs at the bottom of a steep, cliffy valley – more like Devon than Fife. And at the end a good show of waterbirds. Most of the Canada geese were away in the nearby stubble fields, but there were plenty of mallards, a flock of about 80 lapwing, some dunlin, redshanks, curlews, turnstone and 1-2 greenshank. Apart from April to June there are always greenshanks around the shore there. Most greenshanks winter in sub-Saharan Africa but some British breeding birds have just been tracked to more local wintering grounds in Ireland. I suspect the few greenshanks that winter on the East and West coast of Scotland are also Scottish birds. In the stubble fields there were hundreds of meadow pipits. I noticed small flocks of them passing over Crail this morning, heading west on return migration. A lot of them must have stopped at Boarhills today: it was like a small reverse blizzard of pipits, popping up in front of me. Overhead I heard a couple of tree pipits calling and there must have been more in with the meadow pipits. Surprisingly there were no whinchats – the fields east of Boarhills in August are the best place to find them – only a couple of northern wheatears. Along the farm track there were a lot of butterflies: peacocks, red admirals, whites and three walls. Wall butterflies are apparently colonising Fife this summer. Fife’s third and fourth record of a wall butterfly, one at Kingsbarns, and the next day one at Caiplie Caves were only a couple of weeks’ ago. There were some on the May Island today as well as my three, so it’s probably time to stop counting: they are here, having crossed the Forth big time this year. Nothing brings climate change home more than the spread of southerly species northwards, like little egrets, but it’s really pronounced for butterflies moving tens of kilometers northwards every year. In my time here speckled woods have moved in and now it’s walls. I have a soft spot for walls. I remember puzzling out their identification in my grandmother’s garden in Hertfordshire when I was a boy and looking for distraction while doing boring gardening chores. They used to sun themselves on her stone birdbath. They were not far from the most northerly extension of their range at that time. And at Boarhills today, 40 years’ later they were appropriately sunning themselves in the same way on the stone walls between the fields, just a lot further north. It’s nice to have a piece of my childhood following me north – perhaps it’s not too much to hope for hobbys (a southerly insect eating falcon and my favourite bird of prey) as well.

Wall butterfly at the mouth of Kenly Water this morning

Posted August 23, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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