February 20th   Leave a comment

The coastal loop from Crail to Wormiston to Balcomie and then back to Crail along the coastal path was much quieter than last week. The skylarks have mostly gone with just a few residents left in each field, busily singing and scrapping today ready for starting breeding in six weeks. Along the coast there were quite a few teal and a pair of long-tailed ducks past Fife Ness; otherwise it was much as usual for February.

It got a bit more exciting at lunctime. The Russian whitefronts had been seen again: the wild goose chase was on again. This time it was straightforward. I found the three birds exactly where they had been seen forty minutes before, in a small flock of pink-footed geese between Pittenweem and Balcaskie. The first whitefronts on the Crail patch (just at the 10km mark) for 9 years! Viewing wasn’t ideal, standing beside the surprisingly busy road, but they were good to see again. Pink bills and pale heads made them birds from Siberia rather than Greenland. I also noticed they looked more elongated than the pink-feet they were with, and with much darker grey backs allowing them to be picked out when their distinctive white face patches and orange legs couldn’t be seen.

Three Russian white-fronted Geese at Pittenweem today; with pink-footed geese. Although the photos are poor they do give a better feel for the id challenges.

Further along the road was a flock of about 800 pink-footed geese in a much quieter location. I could scan the flock in a more relaxed fashion. I picked out one tundra bean goose among them – another rare goose for the Crail patch from Siberia, with the last ones being seen here in the winter of 2015 – 2016. Again, they are distinctive like whitefronts when you get a good view – with an orange bill tip patch (the same pattern as on pink-feets but not pink) and orange legs. But most of the time you don’t get a good view – geese feed in cereals or grass obscuring their legs and head. Then it’s the lack of contrast in the blackish back, wings and flanks, and the lack of a prominent white tail tip that picks a bean goose out in a flock of pinkfeet. Another valuable addition to the Crail year list, although 10.5 km from Crail and so technically off the patch: but the flock luckily flew off east before circling back and heading towards Kilconquhar so the bean goose could, just, get included.

Tundra bean goose today, again with pink-footed geese

Posted February 20, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

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