Archive for May 2022

May 29th   Leave a comment

The wind died down finally over this weekend making corn bunting survey a bit more realistic. The territories of the males that have been singing for six weeks are now being infilled by – I assume – first year males. The females are, I think still in the main, circulating around the territories making their minds up where to breed. I keep picking up single birds in territories that after a while fly off for hundreds of meters or more, landing several territories away. There are pairs forming in a few of territories now. We have about 210 territories since the beginning of May, and 240 since the beginning of April (some males have changed their mind and moved).

Spring land bird migration is winding down. I only had two wheatears in the fields this weekend – both together – they definitely stick together at passage sites just like whinchats. Surprisingly, I had a late white wagtail today in a field at Easter Grangemuir, just north of Pittenweem. Everything else is here now and frantically breeding. I relocated a female yellow wagtail between Troustrie and Sypsies at the same location as May 15th, but in a winter wheat field. The cabbage field where they were last time has now been cleared and ploughed. I hope they were/are nesting in this adjacent winter wheat field. The female was sticking to a relatively small area of and circling about as if it might have a nest but was reluctant to go back on with me in the vicinity. If there is a nest, it is in the egg stage: no sign of the male or of feeding chicks.

I watched a buzzard yesterday being harassed by a couple of carrion crows. The buzzard had a newly killed woodpigeon in its talons. The crows were trying to provoke the buzzard to make a strike at them and so to let go of the woodpigeon, or to just drop the woodpigeon in agitation. One crow would lunge at the woodpigeon under the buzzard and the buzzard would lunge and flap at the crow, dragging the woodpigeon along behind like an anchor. As it did this, the second crow would then make a lunge at the exposed woodpigeon from behind the buzzard. I have seen this a lot with sparrowhawks which then lose their prey to this tag team, semi-cooperation by the crows. I say semi-cooperation because the two crows are not very well coordinated and mostly seem to be taking their best chance, rather than acting strategically. And when they do steal the prey, they don’t share. The winning crow excludes the other. On this occasion there was no chance for this cheating, the buzzard just hung on to the woodpigeon, eventually flying off with it into a nearby group of trees. Crows seem very reluctant to follow raptors into cover, and they then left it alone.

Not a great photo but you get the idea: the buzzard facing off to the two crows. The buzzard might be stronger, but the crows are much, much smarter

Posted May 29, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 25th   Leave a comment

Mid to late May is a good time to see marsh harriers around Crail. I had an adult female over the fields at Troustrie this morning: a bright golden yellow crown and shoulder patches but otherwise all very dark brown. At a distance, marsh harriers always look like lanky buzzards so they stand out if you are familiar with the shape of buzzards. But in any case it is always worth looking at buzzards, particularly at this time of year. My first marsh harrier of the year – they seem to be becoming more common and last year was a good one for them – but most of this is probably just because I am spending so much time looking at the wide, open farmland that they like to hunt in. Much less common – although my third Crail record in the past year – was a hen harrier at Cornceres a bit later. A white-rumped, brown harrier flew over being mobbed by crows, heading for Kilrenny. I tried to make it one of the rarer harriers because of the time of year and because it looked skinny, but I suspect this was because I had just seen the bulkier looking marsh harrier. Wishful thinking – a pale underwing probably made it an immature male hen harrier. There should be hen and marsh harriers all over Fife with a little bit more farmland habitat set aside and no persecution, and it was easy to imagine this morning.

The wind got up again by lunchtime and the corn buntings started doing more of their stealth singing so I headed back to Crail. I was checking the last territory at Oldbarns, but close to the coastal path when I heard a yellow wagtail calling a few times and then glimpsed the male heading over the road towards Oldbarns. Whether there has been a successful nest here I still don’t know, but it is good to know they are still about. As I scanned the newly planted Brassica field for the wagtail I saw the ringed plover (see May 15th) sitting on a nest. It is in an unfleeced part of the field that will hopefully not be now. Otherwise it is disaster for this nesting attempt.

Spot the nest… The white stuff in the background is the fleece, which might keep the cabbages warm but won’t do the eggs any good.
Ringed plover on the nest at Oldbarns (I’m on the edge of the field, fully zoomed in, so a long way from the nest, as its relaxed posture shows).

Posted May 25, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 22nd   Leave a comment

There seems to be a rapid turnover of waders at Balcomie Beach. Today there were many fewer sanderling and dunlin, but more turnstones, perhaps more than 40. Still a single redshank, I don’t expect to see one from the beginning of May until the end of June even though they are ubiquitous on the shore the rest of the year. The number of wheatears continues to go down – only 6 on the driving range now and another three on the rocks at Balcomie.

Turnstone at Balcomie (John Anderson)

Posted May 22, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 21st   Leave a comment

The wind has continued over the last two days and continued my frustration at detecting corn buntings. I am finding them only by searching along the dykes or fences for their hunched and dumpy shape. They seem very reluctant to sing – perhaps only 10% of the time. I need to stay in a territory for fifteen or twenty minutes to have a reasonable chance of hearing one sing, and then the wind makes it audible over about half the territory. I am also finding that some of the early May territories, particularly those in the same place as last year, but where now the crop is recently ploughed soil or flowering rape, are disappearing. That is fine, ultimately, because this is what I am studying, but it adds to sense of feeling I am not going forward very fast in mapping the territories for this year.

Yesterday I was mostly at Lower Kenly Farm where I found 5 territories (11 last year). The low detectability is more likely to blame than a big decrease: more visits are needed. It was fairly quiet up there all around. The pair of ravens flew over from Kippo Farm, one nicely mobbed by both a jackdaw and a carrion crow to show the array of crow size well. I saw a fox crossing the fields, looking lean and jackal like. I hardly ever see foxes when I am surveying and they are not tolerated on most of the local farms. I am always pleased to see them. Like magpies and other crows, they may cause us problems, but they are the species that are most like us – exploiting every opportunity ruthlessly to get by.

The fox at Lower Kenly yesterday. Looking very skinny so perhaps a female with a den full of hungry cubs somewhere

Today I stayed closer to Crail, checking the fields at Wormiston. It was a bit less windy but still hard work finding the corn buntings. I came back along the shore where the high Arctic breeding waders have appeared on their way north. All along the shore at Balcomie there were ringed plovers, dunlin, sanderling and turnstones – many in summer plumage. It was low tide so they were hard to count, but easily over 200 birds in total. The flock of 100+ arctic terns was still on the rocks, mostly roosting but occasionally flying up in a big, noisy, circling frenzy with birds displaying to each other. Wheatear numbers have been going down all week but I still had 9 on the driving range at Balcomie this morning and another 5 along the shore. Yesterday, where I covered much more ground (31km) I had over 20 by the end of the day. These birds all seem large and orangey fitting Greenland wheatears. Like the waders, their breeding season only starts, at best, in a couple of weeks so they can hang around Crail feeding up for a bit longer. I saw my first fully fledged starling chick today, out from cover and following an adult, so it will have left the nest a week ago. The end of the starling breeding season always comes very quickly, even before the spring migration season is over.

Three of the high Arctic wader species coming through Balcomie today – also sanderlings, a single redshank, and two days ago, John Anderson had a flock of knot. The turnstone, ringed plover and dunlin here are all in summer breeding plumage, and some of the dunlin were even singing on the shore this morning

Posted May 21, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 19th   Leave a comment

Unusually there was a St Andrews Bay style flock of sea duck off Balcomie today. About 150. Mostly common scoter, with a few velvet scoter and at least three scaup. They were in a synchronized diving frenzy, with some herring gulls around the edge of the flock, like herding sheep dogs around black sheep, but waiting to dash in for the scraps. In the foreground, there was a big flock of Arctic tern. Almost certainly May Island birds. They always seem to spend a few days on the shore at Balcomie before committing to egg laying on the May. Inland the house martins were busy making their nests. They are spoilt for choice after the heavy rain earlier in the week, with plenty of muddy puddles to choose from. The ponds at Pinkerton may be work in progress but they were just fine for the house martins this morning (and the swallows), providing mud for all the nests in the area.

House martins collecting the two components of their nest, mud for the outer shell and feathers for lining, from a puddle at Balcomie Cottages yesterday (John Anderson)

Posted May 19, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 18th   Leave a comment

The wind was back west today and fairly strong. In 18 kilometers only one corn bunting bothered to sing. I was surveying edge of range so it was frustrating – false negatives or not? I did find three pairs of breeding lapwing around Airdrie Farm. Every year they get rarer and harder to find. All the birds were in a harrowed stubble field, creating a bare, flat field, but not uniform, so a nest and eggs would be hard to find. Any overflying crows were escorted off the premises in any case. I got excited when I saw two small black and white things bobbling about at one of the distant lapwing’s feet, but they were another couple of migrant wheatears not chicks. If lapwing chicks freeze (and the adults call to them to do so if you are anywhere close) then they are impossible to see. Any breeding pair should have hatched chicks by now.

A wary breeding lapwing today, hopefully guarding its chicks

Posted May 18, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 17th   Leave a comment

This morning there was no rain but the haar was in for most of the morning to the east of Crail. As expected, there were migrants about, brought in and down by the winds and rain of yesterday. From Kilminning to Balcomie cottages I had four spotted flycatchers, a garden warbler and best of all, three lesser whitethroat. Never a common bird, with only a handful in a year on the Crail patch, three lesser whitethroats is, I think, a day record for me – and I missed another one at Lower Kilminning as well. The lesser whitethroats were singing their rattly song making them easy to find, particularly one at Upper Kilminning around the pines. I learnt lesser whitethroat song when I was 14 and had a singing bird in my front garden in Hertfordshire all summer. I knew it was a new, different song but I could never find the singer, hidden in the middle of a dense bush. Finally, I got a glimpse, weeks into its residency, and finally identified it. I can’t hear a lesser whitethroat now without thinking about peering out of my childhood bedroom window for hours trying to puzzle out the song. Lesser whitethroats breed at low density in England but are rare in Scotland. They are another climate change winner, spreading north in the last thirty years and colonizing south-west Scotland. Perhaps today’s influx will be tempted to stay in Fife and continue the process.

Lesser whitethroat – this one not an obvious one in the sense that it lacked darker ear-coverts. Generally though, the shorter tail and more battlefield grey and brown colour makes them quite distinctive.
But the easiest way to identify a lesser whitethroat is when it sings. They do a common whitethroat like scratchy warble (but this is hard to hear) but this then ends in a very far carrying, very distinctive, rattle
Spotted flycatcher. Like the lesser whitethroat above, in the haar, hence the washed out look

Posted May 17, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 16th   Leave a comment

It rained all day – 12.6mm. And with two days of easterlies, there had to be some migrants about. I tried Kilminning this morning before the rain got really established and found a spotted flycatcher. It sat in a hawthorn looking soggy, shaking the water off its wings between sallies. By 9 am it was too rainy to be out birding. I tried again an hour before sunset after the rain stopped this evening, bizarrely the brightest part of the day. This time The Patch. Another spotted flycatcher and the first garden warbler of the year that gave itself away by short phrases of its better than blackcap song, which is saying something. So some migrants for sure and far from great conditions to find them today. Tomorrow morning there may be a bluethroat out there somewhere around Fife Ness: there was one on the May Island today.

Garden warbler (John Anderson)

Posted May 16, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 15th   Leave a comment

I finally refound some yellow wagtails today. The male channel wagtail from May 3rd (although it might possibly be another bird) and a female yellow wagtail, by the irrigation ponds between Troustrie and Sypsies and then in the adjacent cauliflower field. This field is immediately to the north of where a pair bred last year (in potatoes, this year winter wheat) and two fields away from the winter wheat field at Oldbarns where they have bred every year, except apparently this one. I still can’t find any evidence of a nest associated with the male yellow wagtail that a few people have seen over the last two weeks on the south side of the road at Oldbarns.

The yellow wagtail pair this afternoon, with the male being a channel wagtail (blue-headed x yellow wagtail hybrid)

Over the last week I have come across a couple of pairs of ringed plover that look like they are trying to breed – like the local oystercatchers – in the fields above the beach, rather than the beach itself. Today there was another one in the fleeced field of brassicas just on the left as you come out of Crail to Anstruther. The field was in the process of being defleeced – a strange sight as the tractor runs backwards as it rolls the fleece up, looking like someone has put the video in reverse – and there were a lot of people tramping up the rows so I hope there wasn’t another bird already on eggs in the field. It really is tough being a breeding ringed plover around Crail: a choice of being trampled on the beaches or trampled in the fields.

Ringed plover adapting to circumstances, although not quite there yet

Posted May 15, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 14th   Leave a comment

It has been an odd day, collecting unusual species in unusual places. As I left Crail on the St Andrews Road this morning I heard a bird from the trees beside the road that sounded bizarrely just like a dipper. Then a dipper suddenly appeared from behind the trees and continued along the road passing me on my bike at head height, following the road like it was a stream, straight into Crail. It veered at the garden centre so probably didn’t end up at the Golf Hotel. Dippers are rare in the East Neuk – the Kenly Burn and occasionally the Dreel Burn (although I have had one on the May Island!) and completely unexpected in Crail. Nearly a garden tick! I can’t think it was a dispersing juvenile this early. Perhaps a male in desperate search of a last minute territory?

Dipper in more usual surroundings compared to the St Andrews Road into Crail (John Anderson)

The next unusual bird after a morning of corn buntings, and still northern wheatears pretty much in every field, was a raven. I was up at Kippo Farm and saw a buzzard being mobbed by a barely smaller crow. Then picked up one on the ground among the cows and later a couple more heading towards the Secret Bunker Woods. Another year of locally breeding ravens.

One of the ravens at Kippo Farm this morning – easily as big as the cow behind it…

The final special bird was this evening during a quick sea watch from my house. The sea was flat calm and I picked up a cormorant with a big white patch on the side of its neck. I quickly re-evaluated. A great northern diver in summer plumage. Already on the garden list, but always fly-bys and never in full summer, black and white checker-board pattern. It was fishing like a cormorant except under the water much longer than above it was above it – living up to its name. My first common tern of the year flew by as I watched the diver to round the day off.

Great northern diver in summer plumage (John Anderson)

Posted May 14, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 11th   Leave a comment

There were some heavy rain showers overnight after a couple of days of south-easterlies so I was slightly hopeful that there might have been some scarcer migrants about. I was at Kilminning, Fife Ness and Balcomie this morning, then this afternoon on the May Island, but nothing unusual apart from the continuing run of northern wheatears. I had a spectacular flock – yes, a flock – of northern wheatears on the driving range at Crail golf course. The largest group of northern wheatears I have ever seen. Yesterday I had a group of four together on a wall near Airdrie Farm and then five together at Troustrie, and I felt there were a lot about, but today puts this into the shade. Today there were another seven along the coastal path between Kilminning and Balcomie Beach, and there were lots more on the May Island. Despite the lack of any rare migrants, the May Island was its usual magical self. Seabirds everywhere, with the razorbills and kittiwakes busily displaying to each other and getting ready to nest, and the puffins mostly down their burrows incubating, or the off duty birds out to sea, gathering in rafts before flying in to relieve their partners on the nest. I also had my first Arctic terns of the year. A big flock past Fife Ness and then a few on the May Island.

Northern wheatear (John Anderson). The best spring ever for them around Crail.

A highlight today was a wall butterfly at Upper Kilminning. This was a major rarity in Fife just a few years’ ago. It was close to a couple of orange tip butterflies which are also good to see: they are not that common around Crail.

Wall butterfly at Kilminning this morning

Posted May 11, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 10th   Leave a comment

The swifts are back in Crail at last. I walked up towards Beech Walk Park this evening and there were four cruising above. I looked up the last few years’ arrival dates, from 2015 onwards – May 6th, 1st, 7th, 5th, 9th, 3rd, 9th and today the 10th. So a little bit late. My earliest Crail date is the 24th April and the latest the 11th May. I will have to start playback by my swift boxes tomorrow to tempt a new pair.

Common swift (John Anderson)

Posted May 10, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 8th   Leave a comment

A walk along Kenly Water from Boarhills this morning was full of loud, spring warbler song: willow warblers, chiffchaffs, blackcaps, sedge warblers, whitethroats. All now well into breeding. On the burn there was a dipper that unusually wouldn’t fly. It stood its ground, bobbing, blinking and chacking. The reason soon became clear. A much harder to see newly fledged chick that it didn’t want to leave. Eventually the chick flew strongly off downstream and the adult followed. The chick was a few days out of the nest, so the first eggs were probably laid in the last week of March. An early nest, and plenty of time for a second brood in a month’s time when the chick is fully independent.

Juvenile dipper, newly fledged (John Anderson)

After the Kenly Burn I walked around the fields by the shore looking for corn buntings. They were hard to find. There are plenty around Boarhills but for some reason they are quieter than elsewhere. They sing less often and less loudly. I noticed this and my student did the same independently last year: both of us thought we had just had bad days surveying there (weather, wind or time of day…), but this went on, while other areas had loud and proud corn buntings, and then we compared notes. And apparently so this year too. Edge of range birds do seem quieter, but I thought this was because they don’t have other neighbouring birds to sing against. They are at lower density at Boarhills but still there is still a corn bunting for pretty much every other field, so I don’t really understand it.

One of the quiet corn buntings of Boarhills – territory 104 for this year

There were two little egrets down on the rocky shore behind the pond just north of the Kenly Mouth. They are still a rarity on the Crail patch and these are only about my 5th record. It’s a good area there and a potential breeding site with a few big enough trees right by the pond.

Posted May 8, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 7th   2 comments

It’s one of my favourite times of year. The evenings are light, it’s getting warmer and lots of birds are on the move. Today started off well – I looked out of my bedroom window to see a pair of mute swans gliding down over the High Street, over my back garden to land out of sight in the sea by the Brandyburn. Mute swans in Crail are very rare, although you don’t have to go far to find the nearest at Carnbee Reservoir or Kenly Water. And this was the first time I have had them “in” my garden – making number 141 for my garden list. I then got a message that there was a ring ouzel on the Drony Road at Kingsbarns. Never ignore a Crail ring ouzel – you can never rely on them in a year – and a male in spring is a glorious, super-charged blackbird. Twenty minutes later I had cycled to Kingsbarns and was looking for it in the potato, brassica and turf fields by the golf course. But I had missed it – the bird had only been seen briefly and was probably already well on its way further north. There were a few blackbirds in the fields to get me going, lots of northern wheatears (some big, bright Greenland ones) and of course wall to wall corn buntings. Best of all I finally connected with my first sand martins of the year. There were a few pairs in their usual breeding place at the north end of the golf course and hawking over the adjacent fields.

After thirty minutes of looking for the Ring Ouzel I decided to cut my losses and map the corn buntings at Boghall Farm. Last year, Boghall Farm (which includes the Drony Road) had the highest densities of corn buntings in Fife – about 28 territories. This year looks the same. I had 2 or 3 corn buntings singing around every field. There was still a flock of corn buntings down at the field by red sands – at least 53 – and in another part of the farm a flock of 8. As I tried to work out how many of the flock of 53 were actually territorial birds (not very successfully – I will wait until June) I heard a quail calling from the slightly longer grass field above. A burst of quite rapid “wet-my-lips” calling for about thirty seconds very close to me. Then quiet. I scanned the field very hard with some hope of maybe seeing the quail in the relatively shortish grass but no luck. You only see them when they flush. A quail is a great bird for the Crail year list being recorded only in 5 years of the last 20: but I have had them for the last 4 years in a row now. This is most likely because I am spending a lot of time in East Neuk farmland as I chase corn buntings. Today’s record is early – quail usually turn up later in the summer.

I came back from Kingsbarns along the old railway track at lunchtime in the hope of one or two new corn buntings, but they had gone quiet (in May, they don’t sing much in the afternoon). I did hear and then see a redpoll at the end of track, where it meets the road by Ribbonfield. The redpoll was doing a display flight, calling loudly, and there was a second bird accompanying it too. There are some big bushes and small trees in the area but it doesn’t really seem like breeding habitat for redpolls, and I have never before seen any sign of a breeding pair around Crail. Nevertheless, their behaviour today made it look like a possibility.

The male redpoll displaying at Ribbonfield today

I went along to Kilminning in the afternoon in search of some reported whinchats and tree pipits. No sign of them. The migrants today were only stopping briefly. I got excited when a big, all white gull came past along the shore: initially I thought a glaucous gull before coming to my senses and remembering the leucistic herring gull that we have in the area.

Still no swifts. I have just been out in the back garden to have another check. Last year they were back on the 9th of May, but this was late because of the cold snap at the end of April. This year has been cool so far, but it has warmed up a bit over the last couple of days. They must surely be back tomorrow.

Posted May 7, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 5th   Leave a comment

My first hour out this morning mapping corn buntings between Crail and Cambo was not much fun. Rain, mud and non-existent field margins making survey difficult. But just as I was thinking about giving up, the rain stopped and a scan of a fence line picked up a whinchat. Spring whinchats are good birds – first because of their rarity, one or two a year but only if I am lucky, and second because the males are very handsome, in dark brown, white and orange. Whinchats are one of my top five birds through a decade of studying them in Africa. They are incredible generalists, making do in almost any habitat from intense farmland to scrubby, open woodland, they eat almost every invertebrate from ants to butterflies, and they glean, flycatch, dig and pick. The only thing they insist on is a perch to feed from, but then again it can be anything from a stake in a bare field, a termite mound, an unharvested maize stalk, to the top of an isolated tree. I watched today’s bird – a lovely male – swoop down from the wire fence into a newly sprouting spring barley field, hop around for a bit – and then it was off over the field, heading northwest. Perhaps a Scottish bird newly in, brought down by the rain, and keen to get on to its breeding grounds in the hills. From my tracking work I know that a bird like this may well have been in Liberia just 14 days ago.

Male whinchat (John Anderson)

An hour later, as the sun came out and I dried off, there was another good migrant. I picked up a crow flying up and then mobbing a larger bird coming in from the sea towards Randerston Farm. Through my binoculars I could see it was a short-eared owl. Another bird about as unusual as a whinchat around Crail. Short-eared owls are more common in the autumn, sometimes stay around a few days, but any day you see one is a good day, and they are much rarer in the spring. The crow gave up as the owl continued on to Cambo, but a curlew then flew up and started chasing it. Again like the whinchat, this might be a Scottish bird, heading back from wintering in Africa (although likely only North Africa or southern Europe) back to the hills and heather to breed.

Short-eared owl (John Anderson)

I came back from Randerston along the shore, picking up the corn bunting territories along the cliff edge fields. There were more migrants at Balcomie – whimbrels and wheatears. And a pair of ringed plover displaying over the asparagus fields. In one sense a good place to breed, away from the disturbance and trampling of the shore at Balcomie, but in another, not so good, as the asparagus pickers tramp up and down every row, every day at this time of year. Back in Crail the house martins were back in good numbers, I expected the swifts back tonight as well but they should be back tomorrow evening.

Northern Wheatear contemplating whether to go green and forage on the golf course on the right or brown and forage in the asparagus field on the left – in the end it did both depending on the golfers or the pickers

Posted May 5, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 3rd   1 comment

I haven’t see a yellow wagtail since the first male back at Oldbarns on the 14th April. On the 15th there were four reported there, including a pale blue headed bird that was either a blue-headed wagtail or a channel wagtail (it depends on the darkness of grey on the head and whether the ear coverts also look darker grey, and this bird looked pale blue headed with pale cheeks, or darker grey with grey cheeks depending on the angle of the photo). The conclusion was probably a channel wagtail, which is a hybrid between the British yellow wagtail subspecies and the near continental subspecies blue-headed wagtail. Anyway, it all seemed good for another (the 9th since they recolonized) breeding season of yellow wagtails around Crail. But since the 15th there have been no sightings at all around Oldbarns and Barnsmuir, with just a single reported a couple of days later from good habitat as the fields of Cornceres Farm, Kilrenny run down to the shore. I have been looking for corn buntings a lot in the area and have covered the ground, and John Anderson has also been watching Oldbarns on several days. It hasn’t been looking good. I haven’t given up hope even though it has been two weeks without a sighting because yellow wagtails are famous for their low site fidelity, often shifting a kilometer or much more between nesting attempts. There is a lot of suitable nesting habitat between Fife Ness and Kilrenny (their nesting range last year). But today I finally found another yellow wagtail. A male and again, surprisingly a channel or blue-headed wagtail type. Again it was light and view dependent, but on photos I took (below) it seemed more like a channel wagtail, with a pale blueish grey head and no darker contrast on the sides of the head. The wagtail was in a field of winter wheat to the east of Crail and was behaving just as if it had a female on the nest. It was singing, keeping close to me when I was close to a particular bit of the field, and vigorously chasing skylarks away from the area. Yellow wagtails bred in the same field successfully last year when it had late season potatoes in it. It was a great bird to see and apparently really good news to have them breeding in the area again. Except, that other Crail birders who help to survey and monitor the yellow wagtails couldn’t refind it an hour later or last thing this afternoon. The males can also be inconspicuous when females are incubating, feeding several fields away, so they may have just got unlucky. Time will tell.

Probable channel wagtail today near Crail, possibly breeding. See June 17th 2020 for another, similar bird that I initially identified as a blue-headed but then general opinion agreed it was a channel as well.

Posted May 3, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

May 1st   Leave a comment

The start of the corn bunting mapping season. 7 kilometers from Kingsbarns to Kenly and back via Pitmilly turned up 16 singing corn buntings, with the usual ridiculous density along the Drony Road.  Again, there were birds singing where they weren’t last year, as well as the usual places, suggesting that the overall number of territories is going to go up again this year. There is still a flock of 17 or more corn buntings in the big sheep field behind Red Sands at Boghall so like last year there are still lots of birds not committed to breeding territories yet. Very early days and a lot of ground to cover though, but a good start. During the walk I also came across a flock of at least 14 twite, probably many more (they were hidden among the rocks on the shore) at Boghall, a few wheatear in the fields, and a few single whimbrel along the shore, about one for every curlew that is still remaining.

May 1st – start of the corn bunting season (John Anderson)

Posted May 1, 2022 by wildcrail in Sightings

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