October 20th   Leave a comment

One of the dangers of writing a blog – or any other bit of social media – is that you post only the highlights and give a misleading impression of wall to wall excitement. So to remedy this let me mention yesterday afternoon. I had been waiting all day for the rain to stop. In the end I headed out mid-afternoon to Roome Bay in a light drizzle hoping to reconnect with the Mediterranean gulls again. When I got there it was coming on to rain harder, but there were a lot of gulls again so I kept walking eastwards. It was all black-headed and herring gulls, and it always seemed that the next group a little further on would have something more interesting with it. The wind was behind me as well, so I really didn’t want to turn around anyway and face the now proper rain. I just kept going until I was nearly at Fife Ness, when the oncoming dusk made me rethink my strategy and make the turn back for home. I came back through Kilminning and some stubble fields, putting up tens of skylarks but again nothing more interesting. My feeling of virtue being rewarded was misplaced. I was out there but to little effect other than getting completely soaked. The dog was well walked, although I noticed she was reluctant to go out this morning when she saw it was raining again. Not every day is a birding blinder at Fife Ness.

But then you do get another go at it the next day. Better weather today and better birds. The rain cleared up by mid-morning and by lunchtime it was a lovely, sunny late autumn day. I heard the Siberian chiffchaff at the top of Kilminning a few times, but it stayed elusive in the tops of the sycamores. It has now been here at least 10 days. Thirty minutes later at the bottom of Kilminning I heard a Siberian chiffchaff again calling – a second bird, 900 meters away from where I last saw the first. This was a brighter bird than the top chiffchaff – still barely any greens or yellows, but a brighter buff and with a more marked supercilium, and without the very obvious brown ear coverts of the first bird. The call was another absolute classic Siberian chiffchaff, as good as the top Kilminning bird. Siberian chiffchaffs are never going to be split as a separate species, they intergrade all the way along from Siberia to the UK, but they are very distinctive and have come, well, from Siberia – another link from Crail to a far flung and exotic part of the world. Key to getting on to them is the sad, almost piping “sue”, single syllable call – sometimes quite loud and more strident than you might imagine.

Siberian chiffchaff – this one in January 2017 further down the coast in Fife (JA)

Two Siberian chiffchaffs is a good trip out by any standards. I also had a brambling in the top part of Kilminning, and some blackcaps in the lower part, a couple of common snipe and redpoll flying over, and best of all three barn swallows moving along the coast as fast as they ever go, although heading east. There is still life in the autumn yet.

By the way. I wrote a community land asset transfer for lower Kilminning during lockdown as part of the Crail Community Partnership’s aim to increase the wooded and wildlife habitat around Crail. Fife Council agreed with our case: that we would do a better job than them in looking after and rewilding the area. The land is ours – subject to final legal process – for the £1 I bid. But although the price of the return of land to the community was cheap, lawyers are not. And then we need to make a proper environmental plan to restore the land – to remove much of the tarmac (although leaving enough for access and parking), create a wetland and a more wooded, more biodiverse habitat. You know where this is going: if you have ever visited and enjoyed Kilminning then please donate to help us make a proper nature reserve. If you have only read about it in Wild Crail, please donate anyway, ready for when you do come and visit this already special place, that will I hope in twenty or thirty years be something really special.


One of Kilminning’s regular star turns – a barred warbler in Sept 2017 (JA). Elderberries for it now guaranteed forever !

Posted October 20, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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