May 10th   Leave a comment

I was out early this morning hoping to find a rare passage wader like a wood sandpiper at one of the ponds around Crail, brought down by the rain showers yesterday evening. I tried West Quarry Braes first. I cycled down the old railway track, then it is only a quick walk across a sheep field to get there. As I did so a very slim long winged grey pigeon flew away from me – something unusual for sure – a cuckoo. It then started calling from the trees by the pond: a perfect sunny May morning sound. As usual it was very shy and it moved on even though I was over 100 meters away. Passage cuckoos make short bursts of calling when they pass through, enough to get them noticed, but not the endless cuckooing that they make when they get to where they want to breed, echoing round and audible for kilometers. At the pond itself, no waders, but three pairs of tufted duck, and a pair each of teal, mallard, moorhen and little grebe. It is a good little pond, and especially so considering that there are so few in the area.

Spot the cuckoo – at West Quarry Braes this morning
And three pairs of tufted duck in the pond below

It was the same wader story at the ponds at Troustie and Sypsies so I headed down to Kilminning to look for more migrants. Cuckoos are always a good sign that there are things about. There was a garden warbler at Lower Kilminning, although it took me a couple of visits this morning to track it down. This bird could have easily have come in earlier in the week. It wasn’t singing and was keeping to the more densely vegetated bushes. Garden warblers are another one of those migrants, like grasshopper warblers, that only breed occasionally around Crail, and so are actually quite scarce. There have been one or two years in the last 19 when I have haven’t found one at all.

Down at Balcomie the house martins were back at last. There were still lots of sandwich terns on the rocks and with them, three Arctic terns. One drawing attention to itself by getting in the mood and chasing and pecking at a carrion crow which flew over it. There were no waders at Balcomie Beach except a couple of whimbrel, probing into the sand at the top strandline. The beach and shore itself have a lot of seaweed on it from the southerly storms of last week. This will rot down nicely for the seaweed flies and then the late May waders. At Fife Ness there were some more Arctic terns passing, a red-throated diver and a velvet scoter.

A couple of grasshopper warblers were reported from the bushes by Stinky Pool. I had cycled right past them – presumably during a non-singing spell. With the right gen I found them straight away. There was a male singing and a second bird – probably a female. The male was very excited and chased the female a bit, quite unworried by me sitting beside the bush watching. After my spiel about grasshopper warblers being rare around Crail, suddenly three come along at once of course. I was so close to them that I noticed for the first time that before a bout of reeling the male makes a “shree-shree-shree” call, with its head pointing straight up, like a long-calling gull. I was also able to appreciate just how mouse like they are as they scrambled through the dense bushes, brambles and grass.

Obliging grasshopper warblers at Fife Ness today

Posted May 9, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

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