October 2nd   Leave a comment

It took nine hours of effort and four visits to finally see the Siberian thrush at Kilminning this morning. It all went perfectly. A dawn arrival, no-one else there. Parking by the rose bush where it has been camped out for the last three days. And then at 7:40 as the thrushes came out of roost from the whitebeams a very dark redwing shape shot into the top of one of the elders. Then it moved down the elder showing a flash of black and white stripes on its underwing. The Siberian thrush at last. It perched about a meter and a half above the ground, motionless in the elder for nearly two minutes. It was partially obscured and I could only see the double wing bar well, quite spotted, particularly on the smaller top bar, and rows of dark crescent shaped marks on the flanks and breast. After what seemed like an age it then slowly dropped down the bush showing itself completely before disappearing into the famous rose bush. A big buffy eyestripe curving behind the eye and enclosing a darker flecked ear, dark brown above becoming darker at the tail and end of the wings with the contrasting double spotted wing bar, and the strongly marked crescents on the dirty white underside. A subtly distinctive thrush. And then it was gone, not to appear for the next hour at least. There were about 20 cars there staking out the rose bush when I left, I hadn’t really noticed their arrival staying focused on the bush. The thrush was there the whole time I’m sure: we were all in the presence of the thrush, even though few saw it. I suspect it has been feeding in the rose bush since Tuesday, when it probably first arrived (although perhaps earlier – the winds were better last week) and it is probably still there. Unless you were there to see it coming or going it was invisible, and indifferent to the crowds only meters away from it. Yesterday there was a little bit of encouragement for it to leave its bush so people could see it. Whether you like this type of making your own luck, I don’t think it made any difference to this bird. It showed remarkable fidelity to the one bush and small area, probably not moving more than thirty meters away even though there are several very similar areas at Kilminning. In terms of its overall energy budget on a few relatively warm autumn days with lots of insects and fruit about, the occasional intentional disturbance from the birders will have made little difference. The ethical question remains – is this right or wrong – but I think it is just an ethical question rather than a welfare issue. For my part I understand the desire to see a bird, particularly a perhaps once in a lifetime chance. I tried to see it in the best way possible, but if I had seen it because it had been deliberately flushed I would still have been glad. Number 233 for my Crail patch list.

The Siberian thrush at Kilminning (thanks to Steve Buckland for this photo). There are not many available and this is a real achievement to get even a record shot of this bird.

It was a lovely morning weather wise as well. Nice sunshine and little wind. It was pleasant staking out the thrush bush particularly after I had seen it arrive. The common rosefinch was still about and showing more or less all the time, feeding on elderberries or perching high up in an ash tree in the sunshine between bouts. Bizarrely I heard a diver flying over, doing a yodelling call – a black throated diver. They shortcut by crossing over the peninsula but they only really call like this when they are breeding on Highland or West coast lochs. It was very surreal. I had to double check as the call passed overhead and the flying bird headed over the Forth because with so many birders about one or two of them is bound to have a bird call ring tone…Mine is a European bee-eater and I do worry that if anyone phones me while I am out birding in a crowd it is not going to go well. A couple of barnacle geese passed over in the same way – the first of the winter for me. And to top it all off, a hawfinch flew over to probably land in the trees behind the Siberian thrush bush. One was seen later there. As yesterday, that would have been the massive bird of the day in isolation, but this week it was just a bit remarkable.

The common rosefinch at Kilminning this morning (JA)

I cycled back home at about 9 am, quitting while I was very firmly ahead. I couldn’t resist stopping at upper Kilminning though. I was rewarded by a common crossbill flying over, a few small flocks of redpolls and 2-3 yellow-browed warblers, with one showing well in a low sycamore. While watching this bird I heard a loud “chis-seep, chis-seep” like a mobbing swallow. I didn’t pay enough attention to it – I suddenly realised it was coming from a small bird in an adjacent tree. I eventually got eyes on a small Phylloscopus – but nothing more. I know greenish warbler call well and this was too swallow like, and if I heard three yellow brows, there were probably more around so this could have been what I saw. So I don’t know. And actually I felt I had had my luck for the day. Tomorrow will do: this strategy worked out today. There is a general feeling of excitement for the weekend with good easterlies and rain forecast over the next few days. September was very quiet but now we have moved to the other extreme.

Posted October 2, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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