November 15th   Leave a comment

November has been fairly mild. Nine or ten degrees in Crail most days and a long way from frost. This has been the way of winters for the last decade, with any sustained cold periods moving past Christmas now. I’ve noticed the mild weather by the lack of sea ducks and particularly goldeneyes. Species like long-tailed ducks and goldeneyes can winter in a number of places, and they move westwards as the winter progresses and freezing conditions chase them across Europe. In milder winters fewer reach us because there is no need for them to come here: conditions in the Baltic, for example, might stay perfect all winter. So it seems this year. It can all change very quickly though and huge numbers of waders and waterfowl can move to the UK if a sudden and sustained freeze hits continental Europe. But these events have also been rarer in the last ten years. Today I went up to Carnbee Reservoir and it only had 2 goldeneyes instead of the usual 20. And no coots at all. Another continental visitor when conditions get bad (particularly in the East Neuk). Numbers of wigeon (35) and teal (10) were also very low. Lots of the resident little grebes though. While I was there counting the ducks I tried some playback to lure a water rail out for my year list. I had given up and was heading up the hill to my car when I heard one contact calling. Usually it is blowing a gale up there and hard to hear anything. Today I could hear the relatively quiet, but still grumpy and squeaking call as one moved through the thick vegetation at the head of the reservoir as it probably checked out my playback site to see if the now silent intruder was still about. It was a good lesson. Water rails don’t always respond noisily and patience is a good idea. I missed water rail here in the new year and at the Boarhills pond, so this bird today made 170 for the year list, now two ahead of my best year so far in 2019.

Water rail (JA). Easier to hear than see.

Although there aren’t many goldeneyes in from Europe, there are lots of fieldfares. I had three flocks of over 200 between Crail and Carnbee, and another flock of about 50 up at Sypsies. As I passed the secret bunker a jay flew away from the side of the road into the woods. Another bird I missed on the new year, and good to know that there are one or two still wintering, or resident there.

Jay (JA)

Posted November 15, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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