September 11th   Leave a comment

I have been checking the beaches at Balcomie and Sauchope diligently for the last couple of weeks hoping for a ruff. It’s peak passage time for them through Crail and they have become more reliable, with them turning up at this time in the last four years. I finally saw a couple today, but not on the beach. I know full well that ruff are more like golden plover in their habitat choice – they like wet fields and pasture as much as the shore – but had absently mindedly forgotten it again this year. The two birds today were in a flock of herring gulls, picking their way along the furrows of a newly drilled field. The gulls flew up as I cycled past the big field next to Pinkerton (that had up to six corn bunting nests in it only six week ago) and I saw the two ruff with them. They circled round but wouldn’t come back down, finally heading off over Crail (and my garden!). I was spared the angst of wondering whether I can count a bird that would have been seen from my garden (if I was in it), but seen from elsewhere, because I already have seen ruff a couple of times from my house while sea watching. If I decide to relax this rule then there are a few species I can add (white-tailed eagle, Balearic shearwater, whinchat for example). I will see how desperate I get to add new garden species as the years go on…The great thing about a competition where you are the only participant is that you might as well make up your own rules to suit.

Ruff (John Anderson). These two from a field the other side of Crail August 2019

Seeing the ruff has ended a bit of a famine period for migrants. It has remained very quiet the last few days. Kilminning and the Patch seem almost empty of birds except goldfinches and swallows. I have also been checking the waders at Balcomie every day. Still lots of dunlin, with smaller numbers of ringed plover, sanderling and turnstone, but nothing more unusual. And the last couple of sea watches haven’t turned up a single shearwater or skua. There were only three pale bellied brent geese past Balcomie this morning and lots of sandwich terns. The other tern species have more or less gone although there should be small numbers about through until October. Another migrant today, though, was a juvenile marsh harrier. I picked up a large raptor being mobbed by crows over Wormiston House: it just looked a bit wrong for a buzzard, all dark and lanky. I cycled after it and refound it hunting over the fields at Randerston, its harrier shape and golden crown obvious even at a distance. It has been my best year for marsh harriers around Crail – I must be up to seven or eight for the year now. A few winter migrants have also perhaps started to arrive, although covertly. I have seen a few robins scrapping and there have been a couple of small flocks of blackbirds at north Kilminning suggesting that some of them are already here for the winter.

Dunlin Balcomie Beach (John Anderson)

Posted September 11, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

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