October 4th   Leave a comment

It has been another great autumn birdwatching day around Crail to make up for yesterday. It finally stopped raining at 7 this morning. 36 millimetres in total during the rain storm: this is over a month’s rain for us in the dry East Neuk. Yesterday it was relentless and I chaffed to get out, but it would have been pointless. I would have been soaked even before I got out to Kilminning. I could only watch the steady razorbill passage past Crail through the telescope in my son’s room.

I spent the morning around upper Kilminning looking for the mysterious calling warbler I heard on Friday. I was hoping for a greenish warbler or even a two barred warbler. But I heard nothing unusual again, and only one yellow-browed warbler calling. There were at least six chiffchaffs, many blackcaps and lots of goldcrests with the tit flocks, always a good sign of more interesting migrants to be found. I flushed some woodcock as I arrived, the first of the winter. There were redwings everywhere with flocks passing over and others clearly coming in to land from the sea. A flock of bramblings flying over added to the start-of-the-winter feel.

Double figures of yellow-browed warblers around Crail today – this one down at Fife Ness (JA)

All morning I could hear barnacle geese in the distance and when I walked over to Balcomie cottages I could then see the almost constant long lines of them as they followed the coast south. It was an exceptional day for barnacle geese passage: several thousand passed at least. In one flock there was a pure white one: an albino barnacle goose. I found a spotted flycatcher, a willow warbler and more blackcaps and chiffchaffs in the ruined cottage garden. I then tried my luck on the big stubble field still remaining between Balcomie and the golf course. It was full of skylarks but no Lapland buntings which is fairly surprising considering that everything else was coming in today. They are patchy though and even in a good year they turn up together in a few fields rather than at low density in them all. I headed back to Crail through Kilminning, passing through the 25 or so cars staking out the Siberian thrush which is now in its sixth day of residence. It was remaining difficult to see and the common rosefinch was also less visible today. In Crail I heard another yellow browed warbler in the sycamores behind the toilets at Roome Bay. There were yellow-brows reported from several other places around Fife Ness today, probably over ten in total including mine.

Some of the several thousand barnacle geese that passed Fife Ness today (JA)
And more overhead at Balcomie in one of their characteristic untidy flocks

I got a message more or less as soon as I got back home that a red-breasted flycatcher had been seen on the coastal path at Fife Ness – flycatching from the gorse bushes right out in the open. I was straight back out, again managing the trip from my kitchen to the bird in about 12 minutes with a strategic short cut through the golf course. I am glad I made the effort. Red-breasted flycatchers are always great birds to see: elegant, neat and scarce. You have to pay attention to find them and then see them. Well, usually. Not this one. It hadn’t read the rb fly rulebook. It was behaving like a whinchat, perching in the open on gorse bushes and flycatching in big sallies up and down, but always from a conspicuous perch. It was completely unphased by the increasing number of birders coming to admire it, several relieved to have left the completely unobliging Siberian thrush behind for some instant gratification. Unusually it was an adult female – we usually get juveniles – lacking a wing bar of pale edged greater coverts. I checked its tail and rump for dark feathers just in case we had a taiga flycatcher, and even further eastern version of a red breasted flycatcher, but this was just wishful thinking. But a week with a Siberian thrush does get you thinking. I think this might be the best red-breasted flycatcher I have ever seen, catching flies for Scotland in the afternoon sunshine. The gorse was only about fifty meters from the sea and with the easterlies the many seaweed flies that were emerging today will have been blown right over it.

The adult female red-breasted flycatcher on the coastal path between Kiminning and Fife Ness this afternoon (JA)

I couldn’t resist checking out upper Kilminning one more time on the way back home. I heard a tree pipit calling, or under the present circumstances a much more likely olive backed pipit, the harsh tacking of an interesting Sylvia warbler – a lesser whitethroat like call, and then a ring ouzel probably slunk away through a hawthorn as I approached. Everything to play for tomorrow, with more birds coming in all the time on the easterlies, and rain overnight forecast.   

Posted October 4, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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