November 7th   Leave a comment

The fog rolled in late afternoon yesterday and this morning it was still lingering. I had a walk round Crail – it was not going to be a good morning for birding anywhere. It turned out well though. As I crossed the stubble field at Pinkerton a merlin – probably a female, but everything looks bigger in a fog – flew up from a mound of earth and moved to a fence post. As I continued, I wondered if me putting up the skylarks might lead to a hunt. Merlins frequently chase after birds flushed by people, or dogs, or horses or even vehicles. It is hard for merlins to find a few very cryptic skylarks in a huge field. Sure enough, my dog put up four skylarks and the merlin was off after one in a rapid climb. It disappeared into the fog, still powering up after the skylark.

I came back to Crail past Balcomie Caravan Park. There was a mixed flock of tits and song thrushes that caught my attention in the sycamores along the northern boundary. And then a chiffchaff. Any winter chiffchaff in Crail is worth a lot of attention – of the two last winter, one was a definite, and the other a probable, Siberian chiffchaff. This one fitted the bill for a Siberian chiffchaff, with brownish or whiteish tones throughout apart from greenish on the primaries, brown ear coverts and very black legs. It wouldn’t call though to clinch it. I tried playback and it stopped feeding and flicked its wings, looking around to a Siberian chiffchaff call, but then resumed feeding when I played common chiffchaff call. It might have been an order effect, and I should have played common chiffchaff first. Still another bit of circumstantial evidence. This is the 4th Siberian chiff-chaff this autumn, although this one not quite certain. But I am getting the impression that they are less rare than thought, just overlooked. It helps that we don’t have regular overwintering common chiffchaffs around Crail so any chiffchaff that appears is an unusual bird and I give it a good look.

There were one or two bramblings in another mixed flock in the top of the big sycamores in Beech Walk Park. More song thrushes too. The fog seems to have brought a few things in. All in all, a good doorstep walk.

The likely Siberian chiffchaff in Crail today

Posted November 7, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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