Thursday 19 February 2015

East Neuk

I've just spent some time in Fife, a place that has become a favourite of mine over the last ten years. Didn't get out much as I had hoped, but it was a working holiday so that was expected, however one day we went for a big walk out to some of the fishing villages that make up the backbone of the East Neuk of Fife - Elie, St Monan's, Pittenweem, Anstruther and Crail. Of these, Elie is our favourite by far. It's here that the kids go to summer sailing school, here that we play cricket on the beach and construct immense sand castles, and where the adults retire to the Ship Inn for much-needed refreshment. As we set off along the smaller beach towards the light house, I spotted a male Eider close in to the rocks. I had fortunately brought my camera with me on the offchance that there might be something to point at it, and this bird surprised me by being completely untroubled by me going right up to the edge of the rocks and lying down almost at sea level. I had intended just taking a few, but seeing as this beautiful duck seemed to have no interest in drifting away, I had to give it more time - the others continued on their walk and I got busy.

After a fish supper in Anstruther I was dropped off at Shell Bay and walked the short distance to Ruddon's Point. If a year goes by when I don't get a few hours winter birding at this fabled spot then something is very wrong indeed. The family had firmly expressed no interest whatsoever in accompanying me to scan through flocks of sea ducks, so they dropped me and went home to bake a cake, promising to pick me up later. Perfect, nobody moaning or telling me to hurry up. Largo Bay is a large bay, and my annual American target is a small bird, so I set up my scope and got scanning. Some years it takes longer, some years it's shorter. Memorably one year I set up my scope and the Surf Scoter was right in the middle of it in perfect focus, I still have no idea how that happened. This year it took about a quarter of an hour, and was once again quite distant, but there was no mistaking his striking head pattern, especially from the back. With Common Scoter, reliably bobbing about for perhaps the sixth year running. I have no idea if it's the same bird, but if you want to see a Surf Scoter year after year, I can't think of many places in the UK better than Largo Bay. Plenty of Velvets as well, and a Slav Grebe, but it was actually quite a choppy day. Some days it's like a lake, and the birding is unbelievable. More challenging today, but just as satisfying even if I didn't see as much.


I spent a bit of time attempting to photograph waders at the mouth of the burn, and then decided that as I had missed most of the walk earlier that I would cross it and walk the length of the beach back to Lower Largo - a pretty lengthy stroll. Plenty of Godwit and Oystercatcher, with Dunlin and Sanderling scooting up and down. All in all a decent day out, and I'm already looking forward to my next visit, whenever that will be.

Largo Bay looking east from Lower Largo, Ruddon's Point in the distance

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