Jan 3rd   Leave a comment

John and I went down to the bunting fields by Kenly Water first thing this morning. The plan was to photograph the buntings as they flew around us or ideally perched in the new hedge. No plan survives contact with the enemy… Initially all seemed good, we quickly found a couple of flocks (of six and seven) in the usual south-west corner of the field closest to the coastal path. But they wouldn’t circle around us, only flying high and far away around the perimeter of the field. It was all very atmospheric as they flew across the moon, and bruised storm clouds, but not conducive for any kind of photo that was recognisably a Lapland bunting. And the morning, instead of getting lighter, got darker as the rain came in. We cut our losses and headed back, putting up another couple of Lapland buntings closer to the road. It was still early so I decided to try an experiment. I think that there are Lapland buntings all over between St Andrews and Crail, and it is just a case of finding them. This involves walking through stubble fields, ideally with lots of weeds, until you put them up. And because they only reliably flush at 20-30 meters, it means a lot of walking. So, I chose some new stubble fields between Wormiston and Cambo at Randerston farm. Five fields, three of them quite weedy. In the three weedy fields closest to the sea, I found a flock of six, a flock of five and a single Lapland bunting. These are the minimum number of birds: I had sight of up to 16 and I will have probably missed some. I covered realistically about 25% of each field (although my dog may have doubled that figure): in any case, I can hardly claim to have covered all of the fields within flushing distance. The conclusion of my experiment: at least this year, it might be just effort that is determining the number of Lapland buntings that are being recorded. We need to do a proper count across all the potential stubble fields – hopefully six of us will cover the ground systematically next weekend. I also found another flock of 25 twite, and probably a second similar sized flock, but it was distant and I didn’t hear any calls. Plus a lot of skylarks, some corn buntings (some singing) and good numbers of tree sparrows. Stubble fields are great: spring rather than autumn sowing of crops really helps birds.

A buzzard watching me as I quartered the stubbles between rain showers

Posted January 3, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

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