September 20th   Leave a comment

A flat sea again, with no waves breaking except on the shore. The swell was enough to hide a passing gannet though. It made spotting things easy again. I cycled alongside a pod of about 15 bottle-nose dolphins from Roome Bay to Kilminning, just beating them to Kilminning Castle which I climbed to get a good view of them leaping out of the water. There seemed to be a young one (half adult size) that was jumping out into the air and then inspiring some of the adults to do the same. Out to sea there were a lot of little gulls on the water and a single great skua passed. At Kilminning itself there was a blackcap on the elderberries and a flock of 8 redpoll flying over and calling. There was a little rain last night but the winds are all over the place rather than steadily easterly so I don’t think anything new came in.

I seawatched at Fife Ness for nearly an hour. Another great skua, hundreds of little gulls (mostly far out in feeding rafts with kittiwakes), a couple of red-throated divers, 6 manx shearwaters and an immature or mostly winter plumage black guillemot. It’s been a few years since I have seen a black guillemot for the Crail list. There seems to always be one or two around most years but you have to get lucky to see one. They always stand out a mile when you see one fly past with their big white ovals on their black wings and speckled plumage, contrasting with the uniform black upper and white lower of the other auk species.

Red-throated diver passing Fife Ness (JA)

I went back out mid afternoon on getting the news that a couple of yellow-browed warblers had been found at Craighead cottages. I had been looking for yellow brows earlier. Even the whiff of an easterly late September seems to bring in a yellow-browed warbler. It’s just a matter of how many. When I started birding forty years ago they were a much much rarer bird. I’m not surprised I missed these two at Craighead. I had a quick look there this morning but obviously not hard enough. Even though I knew that two had been seen only an hour before it took me fifteen minutes before I heard a call and then another five before I saw one of them. At the same time I heard a second bird call from nearby. In total, in 45 minutes, I only heard three calls and saw a yellow-browed warbler for a couple of minutes, and never very well. They were very busy, constantly on the move, feeding very fast, and changing bushes all the time. It was hard to keep track of them. When I did get to see one, it was worth it as always. There is something sculpted about a yellow-brow after a summer of willow warblers. The eyestripe and wing bar are like strips of bright felt stuck onto the bird rather than just a paler patch. Their black edging makes them even more contrasting. But their obviousness is only so when you are looking directly at them. You glimpse their crisp stripeyness and then they are gone to another part of the canopy. And when you don’t know where they are the stripes are perfect camouflage. It’s a great game of hide and seek that only gets a bit easier as the leaves start to fall later in October. Or when they call. I hope we have a good yellow-brow in season. In some autumns I have seen over 30, in others only a handful. But autumn has properly started now.

Yellow-browed warbler (JA)

Posted September 20, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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