May 13th   Leave a comment

I took the scenic route to St Andrews this morning, via Falside and Lower Kenly, adding another 9 corn bunting territories. Their density declines as you go up the slope from the sea (the east of Fife is a dome) and when you reach the top, half way between the coastal road to Crail and the inland road to Anstruther they more or less disappear. When I was in St Andrews I got the message that there were more migrants in: a wood warbler and a spotted flycatcher at Lower Kilminning. We might now expect passage spotted flycatchers until the end of May or the first week in June, but wood warblers are quite a different level of rarity. This bird is the 5th in 19 years: I have had one in 2004, in an August fall with wryneck and greenish warbler; one in July 2008; one 6th May 2015 (also at Kilminning) and one singing in Denburn for a few days at the end of April in 2019. Wood warblers breed in upland and western oak forests in Scotland so are easy to see unless you wait for them to turn up in Crail. Wood warblers are one of the most attractive Phylloscopus warblers: pure white, bright green and bright yellow, rather than the subdued and often dirty tones of most of the others. They have an evocative call, which always takes me back to West Africa, and the remaining tall trees that dot the dry farmland where wood warblers spend the winter. And they have an even better song, which is the sound of hillside Scottish oak woods. You can imagine I was keen to see it. I was back from St Andrews by mid-afternoon and headed straight down to Kilminning, albeit slowly because of the east wind. This is the irony of a good bird down at Fife Ness, they are usually in on an easterly which means a frustrating slow cycle to see it. Today was an easy “twitch” (if such a thing is possible on your local patch). I arrived and three others who had been watching both birds just a few minutes ago put me in the right area, and then two minutes later both appeared. The wood warbler was its usual lovely self, feeding in the willow between the ruined toilet block and the Siberian Thrush bushes. The leaves on the tree are only half out so it was easy to get good views. It didn’t sing but it called a bit. The spotted flycatcher would dash by every so often and there were a few willow warblers in the willow as well – one with the dirty greyish green tones of a northern, Scandinavian bird. The wood warbler is a great bird to get on the Crail year list – now up to 140, and a month ahead of last year. More rarity weather to come over the next few days as well…

The wood warbler at lower Kilminning today. The bottom one I have turned up the saturation a bit but this is a true reflection of how a wood warbler sometimes looks in the field, with its clean acid tones

Posted May 13, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

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