Jan 9th   Leave a comment

A few of the local birders who live in St Andrews, Kingsbarns, Crail or Anster took their lockdown exercise this morning walking across the remaining stubble fields from Crail to St Andrews. The plan was to get an accurate minimum count of Lapland Buntings, and test the theory that if you walk across enough stubble fields in the East Neuk you will bump into a few. I walked out from Crail across the stubbles between Denburn and Hammer Inn, then the stubble fields between Wormiston and Randerston Farm by the Kingsbarn’s Distillery. It was a cold morning – minus three in the moderate wind, the ground frozen. But great to stride across the stubble fields imagining I was in the Arctic, just at the start of the autumn. There were a few skylarks in every field but otherwise it everything was concentrated in a huge field down at Randerston. Hundreds of skylarks milling around, with flocks of linnets and twite (hard to count because I could only hear them calling amongst the linnets), and starlings, some fieldfares, meadow pipits and yellowhammers as well. I picked up a group of 4 Lapland buntings and then a single bird but with all the skylarks it was very hard to keep track of them and I am sure I overlooked a few. The wind made hearing their calls difficult and I only picked up flying birds when they passed quite close. Still, as I scanned through the skylarks I picked up a large open faced bunting making a “chew” call with a white wing bar – a snow bunting. A needle in a haystack – but sometimes you get lucky. Another snow bunting was picked up at Boarhills this morning as well. In total, between Boarhills and Crail, checking the remaining stubble fields within about 2km of the coast, we had a minimum of 48 and a maximum of 53 Lapland buntings. We checked 37 stubble fields in total and 12 had Lapland buntings in them (32%). Not too bad really and showing that at least this year there are a lot about. Some other good totals were: 234 corn buntings (maybe 25% of the population!), 75 grey partridge, 1362 skylark (we always have lots of skylarks when it gets cold and they move to the coast where it is milder), 130 twite (maybe more – indicating another species that is more common than we think, just out in the stubbles being overlooked), 121 tree sparrow, 230 yellowhammers, 342 linnet and 40 reed bunting. A day with a lot of birds is always very encouraging.

Snow bunting (JA)
And one of the 234 corn bunting we counted today (JA)

Posted January 9, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

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