September 5th   Leave a comment

There has been a lot of meadow pipit passage over the last couple of days. It is really noticeable from about 6 until 9 in the morning. Yesterday particularly – there were drifts of meadow pipits flying over the fields between Crail and St Andrews, heading westward. This morning I could hear them constantly passing over Crail in small groups. The other passage news is the return of the white wagtails. They have sneaked in sometime over the last few days. Today I saw at least 6 between Balcomie and Sauchope, and I think I would have seen more if I had been properly paying attention. I saw a clean, pale wagtail at Balcomie and thought it might be a white wagtail. I then discounted it because I kept on seeing similar birds: too many for them not to be just juvenile pied wagtails. But the penny dropped when I got to Sauchope and had a mixed flock of pieds (all ages and plumages) and a couple more stand out white wagtails. The key features were all there to be noticed when I actually looked closely: the pure white flanks and neat pale grey breast sides in contrast, the neat black line across the upper breast, the pale grey upperparts from crown top to the bottom of the rump. It all makes sense: the pink-footed geese from Iceland migrated early last week, and the migration conditions would also have suited white wagtails up there. The meadow pipits are probably coming from Iceland as well.

A white wagtail at Balcomie and another at Sauchope today.

Otherwise it was the same passage waders as the last few days at Balcomie. Knot, dunlin, ringed plover, turnstone and the single bar-tailed godwit. I saw a single dark phase artic skua far out to sea from Fife Ness. It was an instructive sighting. I am always on the look out for long range features, and after the long-tails last week under similar circumstances, another penny dropped. Arctic skuas, and certainly the juveniles, have the bit behind the wings (i.e. lower back and tail) that is the same length and size roughly as the head. Long-tails have a longer back end, quite noticeably so, than the front end. Flying backwards a long-tailed skua might look like a duck, whereas an arctic would just look like pretty much the same. Kilminning remains very quiet, although a common whitethroat popped up out of the grass to retreat into a nearby bush.

Arctic skua – head=tail. Compare it to the long-tailed skua posted on Aug 27th where head < tail (JA)

Posted September 5, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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