September 5th   Leave a comment

I walked from Kingsbarns to Kenly Water along the coastal path this morning and then back inland via Pitmilly. It’s one of my favourite walks and a good antidote to the current fruitless searches of Kilminning. There were little gulls all the way. I wasn’t seriously counting but I got to over 90 going south. We count little gulls passing this time of year but in fact there are probably several hundred (several thousand?) little gulls between St Andrews Bay and the May Island, and they go back and forth, close in and far out, during August and September, giving apparently variable numbers and passage periods every day. Later at Fife Ness there was a flock of 45 milling around a kilometer out, attracting other little gulls from the south. Again, there were lots of guillemots about close in at Kingsbarns and Kenly, but not enjoyably so after I found four dead guillemots washed up in about 200 meters of beach at Boghall beach. There have been reports of starving guillemots further north along the coast, with large numbers at St Andrews. So the many guillemots close in to the shore is probably not a good sign. There are lots of fish about and the other seabirds seem to be doing well – there are very few razorbills close in with the guillemots, for example. But perhaps not the particular fish that guillemots feed on, although when I checked their diet in the bible – “Birds of the Western Palearctic” – pretty much every local fish species is listed as prey. They eat just about anything swimming within a particular size. The water is very clear at the moment and there have been no recent storms, so it is a bit of a mystery why guillemots, in particular, are dying. At Kenly Water there was the usual late summer flock of Canada Geese. I counted 70 but could only see about half the flock. Migrant wise it was quiet as at Fife Ness: a couple of wheatears (which are very scarce so far this autumn) and some willow warblers. The local whitethroats and sedge warblers are still about but definitely getting much scarcer – they are slipping away day by day. Back at Kingsbarns at lunchtime there were probably over 100 house martins over the village. If this represents local birds rather than a temporary gathering of birds on passage then something good is happening for house martins in Kingsbarns. The biggest flocks of house martins I have seen over Crail late summer has only been about 40-50 birds.

One of the starved guillemots I found today washed up at Kingsbarns
Juvenile razorbill close in at Balcomie Beach this afternoon- fairly lethargic (but sometimes auks just are) so perhaps also starving

Posted September 5, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

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