Tom Gray’s Nature Notes: Winter is taking over

Tom Gray
Tom Gray
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We were pleased to find that it was only a thin carpet of frosted snow to which we had woken up on Monday, having gotten a hint of wintry weather ahead as we set off late Sunday afternoon for a bird check of Birnie Loch when, in spite of blue skies, there was a sudden and noticeable drop in temperature which was to fall below freezing before we could return home.

On route we noted a goodly flock of wintering Common Gulls in a stubble field just beyond Freuchie as we entered onto the Howe of Fife, though on reaching Birnie Loch the bird population was disappointing, with only a handful of Blackheaded Gulls there to greet us and anticipate crusts and stale bread brought by others to feed the mainly Mallard Ducks, in the shallows, while a family of 6 (?) Mute Swan Cygnets cruised with their parents, as if in full sail, out across the water and a few Moorhens darted hither and thither busily on the bank amongst the gulls.

Our quest for bird sightings unsatiated we soon set off for the favoured site of Rossie Bog, some 2-3 miles to the west. We were not disappointed though there were neither Whooper Swans nor geese present and only 2 adult Mutes with the mixed flock of ducks on the open water, but as we listened in the now fading light we picked out the call of Curlew, Sandpiper and the “bath duck” whistling of Wigeons, over the quacking of Mallards. Pleasingly a large flock of Peewits rose in silhouette into the blue sky against the distant backdrop of snow-capped Paps o’ Fife as they relocated along the edge of the main pool.

Passing Kilwhiss on the way back we encountered, and stopped to listen to the gaggle of Greylags settled on a marshy field and creating a familiar wintry scene, though I have yet to find any Fife flock of Whoopers, albeit our youngest son, Alasdair, did us the honour of letting us look and listen in with him on Skype to the flock which occupy the field adjacent to the croft near Turriff where he now lives.

But more local and up-to-date is the exciting news coming in (as I write) by phone of a Stork feeding with gulls in a field near Kinglassie at the Freuchie road-end.