October 10th   Leave a comment

Things have quietened down a lot after the very busy last ten days. The Siberian thrush was last seen on Monday the 5th, and the Blyth’s reed warbler and the arctic warbler were last seen on Thursday the 8th. Today I only found a brambling in the Patch at Fife Ness, and lower Kilminning almost nothing, even the blackcaps have gone. Upper Kilminning was a bit better, still with at least two yellow-browed warblers and some chiffchaffs. One chiffchaff I saw well was very grey brown and buff in tones, lacking any yellow or greenish on it, with brownish ear coverts: it looked just like Siberian chiffchaff but I didn’t hear the clinching call. After a good fall in autumn things hang around, sometimes for weeks. We are not like the May island where there is no real cover or food for the birds brought down there, so they almost always move on after a day or two. But we have had a few clear nights recently and light winds so this time most things have left more quickly. Still, there may be some good birds hanging around this weekend waiting to be found.

Today I went in search of two birds to see if I could beat my year list record. I got up to 167 with the Blyth’s reed warbler two days ago, one short of the record. First, I went to Kingsbarns to wander over the stubble fields to the north of the village and the golf course. I put up a few skylarks in the stubble and then found a field of kale that has been left to grow weedy cover all summer. It was full of small birds: reed buntings, yellowhammers, some corn buntings, house and tree sparrows, dunnocks, linnets and at least 4 twite – my first target bird. These fields have twite in them about one winter in three, so I was pleased to find them again. And the year list equalled! There was also an immature wheatear on the beach to remind me how few summer migrants there are about now. I haven’t seen a swallow for a week now.

The juvenile wheatear at Kingsbarns beach this morning. The sun is getting low – three hours after dawn and still the long shadow.

For my second target bird, I tried the stubble field between Balcomie Caravan Park and the north section of the airfield where I had lots of skylarks and the snow bunting earlier this week. I again put up a lot of skylarks, some corn buntings and meadow pipits and finally a Lapland bunting took off in front of me, calling distinctively and circling above my head showing some of its black and chestnut patterning on its head as it sped by. The year list record broken. I was taking a year off from trying to get a big year list – I think every other year is about right otherwise it can a bit of a chore rather than a joy. But lockdown and its paradoxical effect on me spending more time out birding has kept the birds coming all year – and then the fall added 15 new species in a week.

Yesterday I checked out Denburn Wood. It was full of birds. A big mixed flock of blue, great, coal and long-tailed tits, treecreepers, a great spotted woodpecker and a chiffchaff. I suspect a few things were overlooked here in the last two weeks with all the focus of attention on Kilminning. I had a good look at the huge ivy on the kirkyard wall adjacent to Denburn. It was gloriously in flower. With ivy this is not a showy thing. Their flowers are very subtle. But the insects love them as one of the only sources of late autumn nectar. The kirkyard ivy was covered in red admiral butterflies. Ivies often get a bad press but they are a great woodland cover plant, and a great food source in the autumn for birds attracted to the insects and also the berries.

Ivy and red admirals in Crail kirkyard

Posted October 10, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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