Jan 17th   1 comment

I repeated the walk of yesterday this morning and although brighter and clearer, it was very quiet, with twite, and chiffchaff having moved on. So, in response to a comment asking “how does one tell twite from corn bunting from Lapland bunting when they are dashing up from fields and back down into stubble?”, this is my guide to East Neuk stubble bunting and linnet/twite id. The links are to the most representative sound recordings I could find on Xeno Canto, to illustrate my descriptions of the calls. If you haven’t found Xeno Canto yet, then follow the links and enjoy: you may never come back out of this internet rabbit hole.

Corn Bunting: https://www.xeno-canto.org/537243

A soft “pip  pip  pip” – quiet and hard to hear, like something electrical shorting out.

Flight directly away, keeping low and  with strong buzzing wing beats, followed by gliding with wings closed briefly.

Found in most East Neuk stubble fields, but never common except occasionally in large flocks.

Lapland Bunting: https://www.xeno-canto.org/598953

A dry, very rapid rattle followed by a loud clear “chew”. Often described as “ticky ticky chew”. Very similar to snow bunting but dryer and more metallic.

Flight directly away, initially low but then going up very high and often circling around where it was flushed in high circles of radius several hundred meters, picking up any more Lapland buntings around to form a loose flock. Flight very fast and strong, with buzzy wingbeats followed by gliding with wings closed briefly, but keeping high and circling around, whereas corn buntings go somewhere and perch. Very often mixed up with skylarks that do the same high circling: skylarks are the same size and can do the same buzzy flight as Laplands, but then the skylarks slow down and do a more hovery flight, showing their white trailing edges to the wings – the Laplands keep up their buzzy -glide-buzzy flight forever.

When they fly past note NO white in the wings, and if you are lucky a crescent mark running behind, around the face

Found in about 30% of East Neuk stubble fields in a good winter, but usually you are very lucky to bump into one unless you know where they are from previous experience; they often flush at only 10-20 meters.

Snow Bunting: https://www.xeno-canto.org/606124

A twittery, rapid rattle followed by a loud clear “chew”. Very similar to Lapland bunting but more twittery and the chew more melodic. But I always double check for a white wing bar (large and obvious) in snow buntings, easily seen as they fly away.

Flight away less direct and more buoyant than Lapland bunting, more flickery flight, looks less purposeful and usually go somewhere directly to land again on the ground (but a much more direct and purposeful flight compared to a reed bunting).

The rarest regular East Neuk bunting and I might only expect to see one or two a winter (and even then I will feel lucky); more likely to be found on the shore. Snow buntings flush much more readily than Lapland buntings. I often pick them up as they fly over making their melodic “chew” call.  I pick up Laplands flying over more readily by their rattle.

Yellowhammer: https://www.xeno-canto.org/501919

A wet sounding rapid twittery rattle, never ending with a “chew” call, and sounding less coherent and distinct than Lapland or snow bunting.

Flight looking relatively weak, direct to edge of field or back down again; will form relatively slow moving flocks, that appear to dance as birds change height, looking less rushed than corn or Lapland buntings.

The most common bunting in East Neuk fields. Tens in most stubble fields.

Reed Bunting: https://www.xeno-canto.org/608946

Just a thin “tscheew”, higher pitched and longer than Lapland or snow bunting; often weak sounding. Never any rattles preceding it.

Flies straight up when flushed from ground with a weak almost fluttery flight. Then slow, flittery flight to land on ground again or on vegetation at the field edge. After looking at the other buntings, reed buntings start to look small, weak and lacking purpose when they fly off.

The second most common bunting in East Neuk fields. Tens in most stubble fields.

Linnet: https://www.xeno-canto.org/606298

Very rapid, chittering “chew” notes, blending together, particularly if there are lots of birds in a flock, into a jangly, twitter.

Finch – not bunting – so small and slight looking, very dancing flight, but rapid and flocks are very tight, keeping together and swirling around. Short forked tail, white in the wings but not a large panel like a snow bunting (it is a completely different bird – when you see a snow bunting you will know what I mean).

Linnets are one of the most common birds to be found in a stubble field, with flocks of over 100 common.

Twite: https://www.xeno-canto.org/605416

A quite hard, but twittery “pit  pit pit” – more sparrow like than linnet, followed by “dweezey” – likened to a creaky bed spring. The “dweezey” call is very distinctive and although the other twite calls overlap with linnet, the bed spring call does not. This usually alerts me to twites in a flock of linnets.

A finch that is identical to linnet in flight view – the plumage differences can’t be appreciated in flight. Flight behaviour is pretty much the same, except a very tight flock of “linnets”, keeping very close together and wheeling about like a tiny starling murmuration is worth checking out because they are probably twite.

Twite are very scarce in the East Neuk in some winters, but in others, there can be a flock in about 20% of stubble fields. They also like turnip fields and coastal grassland and saltmarsh. There is no obvious habitat separation between linnets and twites in winter in the East Neuk. Expect the dancing flock of finches to be linnets (watch out also for goldfinches among them), but hope that they might be twite if you can get close enough to hear the “dweezy” flight call.

Yellow hammer, reed bunting, skylark, corn bunting, snow bunting, lapland bunting, twite, linnet (top to bottom, left to right) All photos John Anderson.

Posted January 17, 2021 by wildcrail in Sightings

One response to “Jan 17th

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Thank you. What a real help. Deb

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s