September 19th   Leave a comment

Sadly today is a tale of the one that got away. I was about 5-10 minutes too late for a juvenile pallid harrier that came in from the sea at Kilminning at about 12:15 today. The lucky finders, George Dunbar, Matt Jackson and Dan Burt put the news straight out but I was in (ironically) a Scottish Ornithologists Club Council meeting at home. I’m afraid I left the meeting straight away – a pallid harrier is a once in lifetime bird for a local patch. But when I got to the airfield I could only briefly string a distant juvenile gull and track golden plovers and gulls flying up in response to a merlin hunting along the back of Sauchope. The harrier had stayed around the airfield for only 10 minutes before heading inland towards Sypsies. So close. One of my favourite birds that I see often in West Africa, but never in Scotland. This one would likely be a Finnish bird, heading down to Africa through Sweden and Norway, and getting diverted through Scotland by the wind. Yesterday there was a honey buzzard over the May Island that will have done the same.

The one that got away.. a juvenile pallid harrier that I didn’t see at Kilminning today. Found by George Dunbar, Matt Jackson and Dan Burt. Thanks to George for letting me post his video grabs showing an absolutely perfect record of this rare bird. They aren’t tricky to identify but these photos leave absolutely no doubt.

There were some other good birds around today, although no small migrants – pied flycatchers and redstarts are again conspicuous by their absence this autumn. As well as the harrier, there was a grey phalarope, curlew sandpiper and a pomarine skua seen (by the same team that got the harrier – clearly on a roll). I only connected with the curlew sandpiper. A juvenile roosting on the shag rocks at Fife Ness with redshanks, dunlins and a couple of purple sandpipers. It wasn’t the best of views as it shuffled in and out of dead ground but I was glad to see something good today. Curlew sandpipers are surprisingly rare around Crail and only turn up (usually on Balcomie Beach) every 3-4 years. They must fly by Fife Ness every year, but then they are just another dunlin like wader shooting by, when we are concentrating on seabirds much further out. And last but not least today, the first pink-footed geese of the year: skeins flying past Fife Ness and cutting over the peninsula calling the autumn on.

Curlew sandpiper (John Anderson)

Posted September 19, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

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