It didn't take too long to get to Morton Lochs and we soon added a few more species as we wandered slowly along the road to view both Lochs. A Robin showed well at the car park. Out on the northern Loch were a few Little Grebes, some Mallards, Mute Swans, a Coot and at least one Tufted Duck. A Coal Tit showed in the trees. A rather smart looking male Bullfinch landed in a bush nearby but flew off again before I could get a photo. Checking out across the fields by the access road, I spotted a distant Skylark and Black Headed Gull. We wandered back to the car park to head to the Railway Hide adding a Chaffinch to the list.
A slow wander along the track to the hide gave us a few more species - Goldfinches and a Willow Warbler as well as a few Goldcrests and a Blackbird or three by the boardwalk in to the hide. Things were quiet out front with an eclipse plumage Mallard, a Little Grebe family of 2 adults and 3 youngsters as well as a Moorhen out on the water. A pair of Woodpigeons were in trees west of the hide. A Buzzard appeared over the trees. Swifts swept over the tree-tops, with Sand Martin much lower. Walking back to the car park a Chiffchaff was seen but there were no further additions. As expected the walk along the path opposite the car park gave us nothing new.
We added House Martin from the main hide but nothing else of note, though there were 6 Grey Herons lined up opposite. We popped into the Red Squirrel hide when Jacqui spotted a Bank Vole out in front. There were also 2 Red Squirrels and a few birds feeding on the seeds. Great Tit, Chaffinch, Robin and Dunnock all gave good views as did a male Pheasant which wandered through just in front of the hide. We heard Great Spotted Woodpeckers calling and eventually managed to see one in flight, though another was seen as we headed into the corner hide. A Kingfisher was spotted low over the water and it disappeared from view near the road, either continuing on to the othe Loch or perching in the roadside trees. A drake Wigeon was seen from the road, stood out on the bank with more Mallards. A singing Sedge Warbler remained hidden from sight. Blackcap and Song Thrush were seen before we made our way back to the car where a Bullfinch flew up into the trees behind us.
Jacqui had things to do at home, so she dropped me off at Guardbridge. The hide was empty when I got inside and things looked rather quiet (as expected) out front. Within seconds of opening the window, a Little Egret flew in and landed in the river mid-stream. Not a bad start. I was joined in the hide by a couple we had seen at Morton Lochs. Another couple arrived shortly afterwards. There were a few Grey Herons around. Scanning found Shelducks, Mallards, Goosanders, Curlews and Lapwings dotted around as well as Lesser Black Backed, Herring, Common and Black Headed Gulls. A surprise on the grassy area behind the Guardbridge Inn and the conifers opposite was a young Mistle Thrush. I heard but failed to see a singing Reed Bunting.
Within the hour, the hide emptied again leaving me to see what I could find. Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Tree Sparrows, House Sparrows, Blackbirds, Robins and Dunnocks showed at, or below, the feeders. A pair of Linnets landed on the barbed wire fence opposite. A Great Black Backed Gull was seen perched atop the former paper mill building. Well out in the river a number of Cormorants stood around wings held out-stretched. A small party of Jackdaws flew past. Jacqui messaged me to suggest a walk out to the George Evans hide at Balgove Bay (after driving to the golf course first). I agreed and she said she'd pick me up in around half an hour. Another couple I've met before in the hide arrived and just as I was about to leave the Little Egret re-appeared.
The walk across the golf course gave us Rooks, Meadow Pipit and a young Skylark as well as Swallows zipping around low over the fairways. Once inside the hide we could see the gulls and waders mingling together on the mud - Herring, Lesser Black Backed, a few Great Black Backed, Common and Black Headed Gulls along with Oystercatchers, Curlews and Lapwings. Out in the river were a small group of Eiders and a much larger group of Red Breasted Mergansers totalling at least 80. There were a few Mallards around as well. Starlings swept past the hide in small groups throughout our visit. Carrion Crows and Jackdaws as well as a few Rooks foraged around on the mud.
Although high tide was supposed to be around 1600 or so, the tide didn't take long to completely cover the mud. I spotted a Stock Dove flying in to land among the corvids. A Grey Heron which took off was mobbed briefly by the same corvids. A couple of Whitethroats showed well out to the side of the hide. As Jacqui watched them a golf ball landed on the embankment next to the hide. Within a minute a loud thump against the door signified that the visiting American golfer whose shot had just missed the hide with his first shot had succeeded in hitting it with his replacement shot. Jacqui popped to the door (which is how we know he was American) to tell him where his first ball was when he arrived and he headed off again to complete his round.
Gannets could be seen diving out in St Andrews Bay, though they appeared much closer to Out Head than they actually were. A couple of Grey Seals could be seen 'bottling' out in the river. A pair of Dunlin streaked past, low over the water. Jacqui found an Osprey hovering near the radar on the base and there were a few Buzzards hanging in the wind over Reres Wood and the base. A Yellowhammer and later a Reed Bunting flew past and just as we were about to give up for the afternoon I spotted our first Tern of the day, well out in the river. Photos confirmed it to be a Sandwich Tern and once it had passed we walked back across the course to the car and back to Guardbridge.
Jacqui headed for home again and I decided to revisit the hide despite the tide being still rising. A quintet of Redshanks among the flooded grass opposite added to the list. A Great Spotted Woodpecker gave good views on the feeders, and a Collared Dove popped in at the other feeders. The LIttle Egret showed again, roosting out on the saltmarsh alongside a Grey Heron. An Osprey could be seen hovering over the bay, above the farm buildings. With the list for the day stuck on 69 species, I happened to stand up and spooked a bird from the wall below the front of the hide. It called as it flew low over the river. An unexpected bonus bird - a Common Sandpiper. Along with the slight increase in wader numbers in general, it appears that "Autumn" migration movements have already started. A couple of young Carrion Crows begged for food from an adult giving some nice photo opportunities.
Just before 1700 I decided to head for home with 70 species of bird, 3 species of mammal and a few insects to show for roughly 10 hours worth of birding (including my first Ringlet butterflies of the year at Morton Lochs, my first Yellow Shell moth of the year on the golf course, and a Red Admiral at Morton Lochs. Blue Tailed and Common Blue Damselflies were both seen also). One of the insects photographed appears to be a species of Capsid Bug (Grypocoris stysi) which the distribution maps in the fairly recent Insects of Britain & Ireland book by Paul D. Brock (published in 2014) do not show the species as being found in Fife.
|Common Blue Damselfly|
|Common Blue Damselfly|
|Carrion Crow & Little Egret|
|Carrion Crow & Buzzard|
|Linnet & Mute Swan|
|Great Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull & Oystercatcher|
|Red Breasted Merganser|
|Little Egret, Grey Heron & Curlew|
|Great Spotted Woodpecker|
Species seen - Blackbird, Blackcap, Black Headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Common Sandpiper, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunlin, Dunnock, Eider, Gannet, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Black Backed Gull, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Herring Gull, House Martin, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Linnet, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Magpie, Mallard, Meadow Pipit, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Osprey, Oystercatcher, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Red Breasted Merganser, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Robin, Feral Pigeon, Rook, Sand Martin, Sandwich Tern Shelduck, Skylark, Song Thrush, Starling, Stock Dove, Swallow, Swift, Tree Sparrow, Tufted Duck, Whitethroat, Wigeon, Willow Warbler, Woodpigeon, Yellowhammer.