January 30th   Leave a comment

Each year when I get a record breaking patch year list under my belt, I think I will take a break the following year so it doesn’t become a chore. So I resolved again this year but now I find myself at my 100th bird for the year, and before the end of January. I’m ahead of any year by three weeks. A great start so maybe I should just keep going…Especially as no. 100 was the first rarity of the year. A couple of days of easterly winds, some rain showers yesterday, and an early migrant. A black redstart at Fife Ness. I walked the Wormiston – Balcomie Beach – Fife Ness loop this morning and after a cup of coffee at Fife Ness, I walked round the corner and a small bird popped up onto the fence behind the lighthouse. Dark and with a shivering red tail – a female or young male black redstart. One of my favourite birds ever since a school exchange trip to southern Germany at the age of 14 when I experienced, for the first time, the concept of the exotic being commonplace with just a shift of geography. German gardens don’t have robins, but instead they have black redstarts doing the same thing, but more urban, using the rooftops and concrete much more. Black redstarts have a great song – only a few breed in the UK so it’s hard to hear here – but it is one of the characteristic bird songs at dusk in the middle of Paris or Munich or Amsterdam or Vienna. Even when I am staying in the middle of a European city, attending a conference right in the centre of town, when the traffic noise dies down in the evening or early morning, I stick my head out of my hotel window and listen for black redstarts. It’s a scratchy warble (nothing unusual in that for a chat) but then followed by a scratchy noise like glass being ground together in an industrial mixer. Completely at odds with the pleasant bit preceding it, and in a way a perfect song for a bird that has adopted the most hard-core urban habitats we have: still half part of the wild rocky mountains that are its “natural” habitat, but now half part of the artificial cityscape. I have said it many times before, but part of the joy of seeing rare birds around Crail for me is that they take me back to exotic places I have been to all over the world. In lockdown especially – when I can’t travel – the world can still come (safely) to Crail.

Female black redstart – this one at Fife Ness in early April 2016 (JA). Today’s bird was elusive, and only seen by a couple of us. There was a strong easterly wind so I don’t blame it for feeding out of sight among the rocks at Fife Ness. They can be hard to see there. I should think it will be out and about more tomorrow when there will be little wind.

Posted January 30, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

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