Read what local wildlife enthusiasts have to say about nature in our area
November Nature Notes by Richard Tite
Visiting a new area of the United Kingdom for the first time is always exciting and so it was for us in the Kingdom of Fife in September. For many years we looked at its Firth of Forth coastline from North Berwick on the southern shores. Bass Rock between us and Fife is the largest Gannet colony in Europe and those majestic ocean wanderers plus auks, terns, skuas and waders had kept me happy for years. But it was the coastline opposite disappearing miles eastwards and turning north opposite the Isle of May at Fife Ness that intrigued. We stayed in the beautiful fishing village of Crail, 10 mls south of St Andrews. What a recommendation; there was enough to keep this artist busy for years. In our cottage were leaflets on local attractions and one at the bottom of the heap `Eden Estuary Nature Reserve` caught my eye, an area of which I had no knowledge. The first morning off we went 3 mls north of St Andrews to Guardbridge near RAF [now army] Leuchars –often the sunniest place in the UK. A `Bird Observatory` is marked on the map, a little grand as it was a hide south of an old paper mill. Up to the screen by the hide we went, a buddleia covered in red admiral and painted lady butterflies. A few birders were in the hide and they let us in although a code was obtainable by ringing a number. There is an unwritten etiquette [or should be] when entering a new hide, strangers are often met with silence and in this one I had to adjust to the Scottish burr. After a short period the disturbed locals resumed their conversation. Local sites were discussed, their successes and failures, what was about, pagers activated by Scottish birders. It is difficult to imagine I know but I kept quiet. Very soon it became apparent who knew what- it’s the same in all hides. One chap pointed out an Osprey sitting on a post ••• mile away and there were 3 later. It was a rising tide, the Eden estuary began to flood the vast sand banks and saltings driving large flocks of waders further inland. Beyond Leuchars I learnt that the vast Tentsmuir Forest held breeding Crossbill, Siskin, red squirrel and White-tailed [Sea] Eagle successful in 2017 but not in 2018. Two from Montrose commented that winter duck like Wigeon, Teal and Goldeneye were late in arriving, putting it down to late breeding in the freezing spring. Very few Pink-footed Geese had so far appeared at nearby Loch Leven and like birders in the east of England were longing for N to E winds, not the powerful westerlies that prevailed and reached their peak with Storm Ali when we were in Northumberland. In a quiet moment they enquired where we were from. `Ripon ` I replied. Two said `oh that’s near that cracking hide at Nosterfield`. It’s a small world. `Where are you staying` -` Crail` `oh you should have been there 10 days ago at the Scottish Bird Club hide at Fife Ness`. `We had the best day with all 4 Skua species passing south plus huge wader, auk and tern flocks`. Five Little Egret fished in the channel in front of us. None yet breed in Scotland I heard. The gent perched on the adjacent seat showed me a picture, [I think on a smart phone] of a Sea Eagle eating a flat fish on the beach at Out Head north of St Andrews – just an hour previously. Black-tailed Godwit lifted from the flooded saltings amongst which were a few Bar-tailed Godwit, slightly smaller, shorter upturned bill and difficult to tell when feeding, easy when flying. 27 Greenshank arrived to feed in front of us, 127 Red Knot [uncommon here] some still in vivid breeding plumage landed by the river. We discussed raptor persecution, good `birdie` places in Yorkshire and much else. What a splendid place, lovely hide, warm and friendly people. Go!