October 5th   Leave a comment

I traded in my rainy Saturday when I worked this weekend with today. There was a little rain overnight and the easterlies continued. There seemed to be more blackcaps, goldcrests and chiff-chaffs today, but otherwise it was very similar to yesterday. I started at Kilminning with John to see if we could get a another view of the Siberian thrush and a photo of the bird. We arrived at the rose bush before dawn but there were already two cars there, and perhaps twenty when I left ninety minutes later. It was nice watching the rose bush and the elders behind, full of blackcaps, a garden warbler or two, song thrushes and redwings. At one point one of the birders accumulating behind us flushed a jack snipe – this must have arrived during the night – from the grass behind the tarmac. It shot up past us like a mini woodcock climbing to get past the trees behind the rose bush. And then at 7:33 the thrush appeared for about a second. Flying directly down to the bush from the trees behind. I was barely able to resolve something redwing size and the black and white stripe on the underwing and then it was out of sight. Again only meters away from everyone, but completely invisible. I think during the day it gave itself up on only three occasions, and then only a few seconds each. A very difficult bird – John and I may well have had one of the best sightings of the lot last Friday, with about 2 minutes continuously, although partially obscured for much of this.

The rest of the day was spent checking out the various sites around Fife Ness, finding scarce migrants myself, or refinding ones found by others. It was nice to have so many birders out and bird, although many were chained to the rose bush all day. Many eyes and lots of things are found. One of the best birds of the day was a male redstart in the sycamores along the field edge at the entrance to lower Kilminning. I have been after a redstart all year: this was the first of the autumn. Like pied flycatchers they have been very scarce on the Crail patch this year. In the end four were found today: I saw a female at the Patch later. I watched the male feeding from the scrubby sycamores, dropping onto the ground and then retreating into cover to shiver its tail. I see them do this along hedge lined dusty tracks in Nigeria during the winter, and I associate them with heat and black-crowned tchagras whistling in the background. Redstarts are another tropical chat that just visits us for a few months. John did manage to get a photo of this bird and I think it is one of his finest. I am going to blow it up and stick on my wall – a redstart on its way to Africa – to remind me that the world really is a fantastic place.

Perfection in a migrant – the common redstart at Kilminning today (JA)
And in context

Another great bird was a ring ouzel at upper Kilminning. I spent a long time in the south-west corner next to the airfield trying to track down a dusky warbler. But my suspicious chacking turned into only blackcaps and the ring ouzel. It was feeding on the lawns around the hangers of the airfield, retreating into Kilminning when disturbed, chacking as it went. This was echoing around the buildings I think, making it sound close, yet quieter than usual. Anyway, the penny finally dropped and I went out onto the airfield to find the ring ouzel feeding with one of the migrant mistle thrushes that also came in over the last few days. Ring ouzels are blackbirds plus – bigger, longer tailed and winged and louder. Unlike redstarts, they are mostly summer birds for me. They evoke steep highland glens and lonely moorland. Ring ouzels winter in low montane woodland in Spain and North Africa and I have seen them there in small hazel or beech trees and juniper bushes. A habitat not radically different in structure to Kilminning. Migrants choose habitats by their vegetation structure more than by plant species I’m sure.

The ring ouzel on the airfield (a young male)

Other good birds today were a couple of spotted flycatchers at the top of Kilminning. At least eight yellow-browed warblers. As the numbers climb up this year (I am now on 15) the good views are accumulating of these always wonderful birds. I had one today with a fairly greenish warbler-like call, so I am rethinking my certainty of identifying a greenish purely on call. The two species almost never overlap in time – greenish are August birds and yellow-brows September – and always attract attention so perhaps this is not much of a problem. There was a red-breasted flycatcher found again today at Seaview Cottage on the edge of the north part of the airfield. I saw it mid afternoon in a much more traditional setting – mid canopy in a dense sycamore – than the gorse of yesterday. This was also unusually an adult female so I suspect this was the same bird as yesterday, having moved about a kilometer. There were more barnacle geese over all day but only hundreds in total rather than the thousands of yesterday. Another overfly was of a couple of common crossbills over the patch. It has been a good crossbill year after many without a single crossbill record from the Crail patch.

Another of the red-breasted flycatcher yesterday, but probably the same bird at Seaview Cottage this afternoon (JA)

Posted October 5, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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