October 16th   Leave a comment

It was a still day – perfect for hearing yellow-browed warblers. But again, Kilminning was quiet, top and bottom. The chiff-chaffs have moved on: I saw only a siskin, a few redwings, a flock of bullfinch, and heard a brambling. There were a few stray, small flocks of barnacle geese passing over. Sea watching from Fife Ness was much more lively. The lack of wind was compensated for by the ease of seeing everything – there was no hiding in the wave troughs. I finally saw a great northern diver for the Crail year list – several have been passing this week. One lumbered past, flying reasonably high above the sea, and conveniently with a black-throated diver in front. It always helps with diver identification to get two species together, and I was able to appreciate just how big a great northern diver really is. There were a couple more black-throated divers past in about an hour, and a handful of red-throated. Its always nice to see the set, although a – not impossible – white-billed diver would have really made a full house. There was a steady passage of little gulls heading south – I counted 120 passing but there will have been more. And a good range of ducks: my first long-tailed ducks of the winter, goosander and red-breasted merganser, common and velvet scoter, and a single teal. Far out to sea, cutting off the corner, were lines of pink-footed geese, probably heading for Norfolk. Just as I was leaving, a sooty shearwater passed heading north: their season is coming to an end.

Great northern diver passing Fife Ness (John Anderson)

There are good numbers of golden plover around Crail and the airfield this winter – at least 200 and perhaps double this number. The best place and time to see them is on the rising high tide at Sauchope caravan park. They roost on the rocky shore, before being pushed off by the tide or getting too close to the people on the shore. Then they circle around in a huge, banking flock for a while, whistling softly to each other, before resuming their roost in the fields behind the caravan park.

Some of the golden plovers roosting at Sauchope this lunchtime

This afternoon I went inland, looking for corn buntings. In 14 kilometers and quite a few good stubble and weedy fields encountered I only found 18 corn buntings, all in the stubble just west of Kingsbarns. This was a great site for them last winter. I will have cycled past a few though – they are quite undetectable in the stubbles. Nothing like Lapland buntings, but you really need to walk through the fields to be sure they are not there. Big flocks are much more detectable and I suspect that most corn buntings are still in smaller family groups: if any are in the newly ploughed and planted fields I will never see them unless they fly. The yellowhammers haven’t flocked up yet for the winter either: in contrast the linnets and tree sparrows are already in large flocks. Up at Kippo Farm a pair of raven flew over from the direction of the Secret Bunker woods to Kingsbarns: perhaps this year really is the one where they start to be a regular resident rather than an occasional rarity. A female merlin and a few sparrowhawks hunting over the fields in the gloaming ended my circuit as I headed back to Crail before it got dark.  

Another weedy, seed filled stubble field bites the dust in a brief frenzy of gulls

Posted October 16, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

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