December 3rd   Leave a comment

The cold weather from the continent has caught up with us. Today it was 2 degrees, although without any wind, it didn’t feel that cold. I walked a loop around the golf clubs at Balcomie: stubble and shore. There were few skylarks which is surprising, but another flock of over 20 grey partridges. They seem to be going from strength to strength around Crail like the corn buntings: both species like the same thing. The shore and beach was almost entirely redshanks and oystercatchers, with the sanderling absent. A few turnstones and the usual fifteen purple sandpipers at Fife Ness. I sat there for a while scanning the sea hoping for some divers. Only two red-throated divers came past. Then I picked up a great skua, very far out flying south and then landing on the sea. I have never seen a great skua here during the winter so I gave it the best look I could considering the distance. It looked compact and slightly small for a great skua, obviously smaller than a herring gull it tried to rob, so my mind went to more exotic southern species of great skua. It sat on the water about three kilometers out before chasing the herring gull and then a gannet before I lost it over the horizon. Splitting great skuas from their Southern Ocean cousins is very tricky even when you get close up photos, so it was all wishful thinking. A great skua is a great bird regardless. But this year hasn’t been a great skua year overall. I have seen perhaps 20 or 30 great skuas, less than 15 arctic skuas and no pomarine skuas. Some years my Crail skua total is in the hundreds. The long-tailed skuas of August 27th make up for the lack of the other species though.

Great skua (JA)

There was another young seal on the beach at Balcomie. This one was further along than the individual last week, having moulted nearly all of its white baby fur. It was sleeping among the rocks and appeared quite happy, living off its fat and waiting to grow up.

The young grey seal at Balcomie today

Posted December 3, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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