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Bird Watching
Birds in Kingsbarns
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People residing in Kingsbarns will undoubtedly be quite aware of the bird-life in the village: there are birds everywhere, throughout the year. They make their presence known by their songs and calls: there is a constant twittering of song-birds about the village, as well as the raucous cries of rooks, the cooing of pigeons, and the noisy chatter of starlings. The starlings also make themselves known by their swarming flight, when they blacken the sky above and, unfortunately, whiten the ground below with their droppings, which must make them the least popular birds in the village!

Many birds are resident year round; others come only seasonally; many are to be found only out-with the village, in the fields or down by the sea. Buzzards are increasingly common over open farm-land and in wooded areas, and may be breeding locally. Gardeners might like to remember that the buzzard especially likes rabbits for food! Kestrels and sparrow-hawks are mainly seen hunting in fields and by roads, but they are not uncommon in village gardens. Owls can occasionally be heard in the village at night, and short-eared owls have been spotted in fields or wood land during the day in recent years.

The sea-bird population changes noticeably during the year, and it is well worth taking a walk along the shore at any time of the year to see a variety of duck, gulls, and waders. Eider duck are always present, although after breeding the males lose their distinctive black and white plumage and are less conspicuous. Other species of duck you might expect to see are mallard, golden-eye, and merganser. You would almost certainly see a heron at some point, if you were to spend a bit of time near the shore, and there are generally cormorants and shags standing out on the skerries at low tide. Gannets make their spectacular plunges into the sea off the coast of north-east Fife for all but a few months of the year, and the terns, with their more modest dives, can be seen in summer, usually closer to the shore than the gannets.

Spring and autumn can bring a wide range of migrant birds. Some of these are yearly visitors, but others are seen less often, and every now and then something really unusual arrives.

This web-site would like to hear from anyone who has anything to contribute about the bird life in and around Kingsbarns. We would be interested in any news of migrants, whether they be fairly common or quite unusual--what might seem common to one person might be unusual to another, after all, and we would like to present an over-all view of the variety of birds that are about at any one time. We may not post information which could be sensitive, such as the precise location of nests.

It should be noted that the foreshore is a good place for seeing a variety of birds, but it is also dangerous, as the golf course appears to be encouraging play over the foreshore and water in several places, and some golfers are even playing shots from the foreshore. However, in Scotland the public has the right to use the foreshore for passage and recreation in safety. Bird-watchers should therefore feel perfectly entitled to study birds at leisure from the foreshore. (Please see Coastal Path, points on foreshore hidden from golfers, safe access near golf course and safe access around Cambo Ness).

Up-date October 2003

Bird-watchers in Kingsbarns will be delighted to hear that waxwings have been spotted in at least one garden (on Oct. 25). These birds are not unknown in the area, but it is some time since this writer last saw them. They are winter visitors from Scandinavia, and their favourite food is the rowan berry, although by the time they arrive here those berries are often gone. My own recent sighting was of five or six birds who came to inspect the honeysuckle berries right at my window, thus enabling me to get a very close view. From a distance, waxwings are not particularly remarkable, being dumpy brown birds, noticeable mostly for their crest. They have black on their faces, red tips to inner wing feathers, red under their tail, and yellow at the tip of their tails. Bird books talk about “waxwing years” when scores of waxwings arrive and stay in the area for a good while--is it possible this will be one such year?

This column has been dormant for a time but bird life goes on in Kingsbarns! In recent autumns (01 and 02), there have been a good number of stonechat and or whinchat along the coastal path by the beach. This writer noticed a snow-bunting on the shore in 01. In January of 02 local gardens were visited by large numbers of fieldfares, who visit Fife most winters but don’t always come into gardens.

We would still like to hear from anyone who has seen anything unusual or spotted any change in bird life in the area. A writer to the Craigie column of the Courier (Dundee) was recently commenting on the appearance of magpies in a Leven garden, and it would be interesting to know if these birds come into the gardens of Kingsbarns. They have been seen on the old railway between Kingsbarns and Crail. This railway is now a cycle path and it is an excellent place to see a great variety of birds.

Up-date August 25 2005

It is not altogether unusual to see a magpie in Fife, but in North East there have never been a great many of these unmistakable birds. This columnist has previously seen magpies mainly along the old railway line between Kingsbarns and Crail, or on the main road to Crail, but only occasionally. Recently, however, I columnist was awakened by a magpie who seems to be thinking of taking up residency in her garden. A local bird expert has informed me that magpies are almost certainly breeding in the area. They are distinctive birds, with their long tails and elegant black and white plumage, and their tails and wings can appear blue-green or purple in certain lights. They are not popular birds, perhaps because of their noisy chattering, and also because they eat small birds as well as insects and seeds.

Gold crests have also appeared in local gardens over the last few years, although these birds are more associated with woodland, and in particular they are known to inhabit conifer woodlands. They are one of the tiniest birds resident in Britain, and very attractive with their orange and gold-tipped heads.

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