October 23rd   Leave a comment

I stopped off at Lower Kilminning on my way down to Fife Ness to check if the dusky warbler was still present. It was clear last night and after 4-5 days it had moved on. I regretted this diversion when I got to Fife Ness, and the realization that I had just missed a white-billed diver. One had flown over the hide heading north five minutes before. Another to add to my near misses this year. After that shaky start, it was a steady stream of little auks through the day. They were heading both north and south, and some were landing on the sea, most were a very long way out, a few were at less than 100 meters. I noticed another very distinctive little auk characteristic. In a flock, they just can’t get organized. Guillemots form a neat line, razorbills even more so. Regularly spaced and following the leader. But little auks are an anarchist collective. No-one is in charge, they keep trying to overtake each other, above and below, and with their wobbly flight, the whole effect is of individuals flying separately, just close together. In about four and a half hours, spread over the whole day, I saw over 30 little auks. They were spread amongst hundreds of razorbills, some guillemots and a single juvenile puffin to remind me that if there were lots of puffins around, picking out distant little auks would be much more of a challenge.

Little auk (John Anderson)

It was a really enjoyable day, with birds coming constantly. A steady text of kittiwakes, gannets and auks, with occasional paragraphs of little gulls, and punctuation marks of great and arctic skuas, a great northern diver, a manx shearwater and a mixed bag of ducks: goldeneye, teal, red-breasted merganser, common scoter and long-tailed ducks. Late afternoon, thrushes started coming in off the sea: you could pick up the flocks kilometers out and watch their steady progress in to land. Tiny dots eventually translating into a small cloud of birds around me before they finally disappeared inland. Mostly redwings, some blackbirds and one fieldfare. A woodcock also came in off the sea at lunchtime, flying in and landing briefly in a confused fashion on the rocks. I cycled slowly back into Crail into the now strong southwesterly wind, the likely signal of the end of these exciting couple of days’ seawatching.

Some of the supporting cast – long-tailed ducks passing Fife Ness today (John Anderson)

Posted October 23, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

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