May 24th   Leave a comment

I did a circuit out from Crail this evening to Barnsmuir and then up to Troustie and back via Sypsies – the farms to the west and northwest of Crail. I was hoping that the yellow wagtails of last week might have decided to stay on and breed. No sign of them but they might well be tucked in the corner of a wheat field out of sight. I did see six singing corn buntings on my route – all to be recorded and mapped to keep track of their rising fortunes in the East Neuk. Once a common species their numbers have declined everywhere in the UK and they only hang on in Fife in the east. Chris Smout has been monitoring their numbers for the last 27 years but has now handed over the project to me. It’s a good time to take over. The RSPB have been encouraging farmers for the last few years to provide weedy and seedy habitat for corn buntings in the winter to bump their food supply. Cornceres Farm and Barnsmuir, for example, have both boosted up the numbers of corn buntings breeding on their farms into double figures. And you will have noticed the patch of bare ground replacing the grass between Denburn and Bow Butts – Crail Primary School children were out planting wild flowers and seed bearing plants there last week to provide food for the corn buntings and other seed eaters. Another RSPB initiative being replicated in other East Neuk villages, field corners and even some of the golf courses. It’s a great idea – for one, the removal of any patch of relatively sterile short grass that the Council doesn’t have to waste time and money mowing is a good thing, regardless of whether it directly benefits the birds. But of course it will benefit the corn buntings and a lot of other wildlife besides. There are two corn bunting territories immediately adjacent the new wildflower patch at Bow Butts. Neither was there last year and they are sure to appreciate the increased food supply. It’s all very positive. Much of Crail looks nice and neat, but a few more contrasting, ragged, wild edges (like Denburn) throw that neatness into focus as well as increasing the wildlife that also adds so much to living in Crail. And what of the corn buntings and their change in fortunes – they are dumpy, dull brown birds with a flat, monotonous song. Hardly ospreys or avocets or pandas; hardly icons of conservation. Yet they are our local symbol that some things can get better in the environment, our encouragement every time one regains a new field corner. Last year there were 110 males singing in the East Neuk, one of the best years since Chris started counting – this year I hope we will beat this.

Corn bunting singing hopefully

Posted May 24, 2017 by wildcrail in Sightings

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