Friday, 20 March 2015

Little Bunting

The Little Bunting has proved to be a bit of a problem bird for me this year. I went to see the bird reported at Old Lodge in Ashdown Forest but failed to spot it even though Dave standing next to me went home with a picture of it. Not wishing to be defeated I went back for another try and another and another and..... Seven visits in all, hundreds of pictures of Reed Buntings but nothing that convinced me that I had seen the Little Bunting. This was starting to be a major part of my life that was going missing.

I had a forced break from the bunting when we went up to Scotland for a week but on return it was still there nagging away at me. Perhaps a different approach was needed. There was a Little Bunting being reported as showing well at Forest Farm reserve in Cardiff. It was a long way to go but could I face another seven days at Old Lodge and that was even if the bird was still there.  Wednesday of last week and I would have gone to Cardiff except I had a problem with the brakes on the car. This was really turning out to be a bogey bird.

Friday the car was fixed and I set off for Cardiff at 05.30 and was in the hide by 09.00 and settled in for what was going to be a long day. Late morning and someone in the hide had a sighting (below) but I was not convinced. It might have been but this looked too much like a female Reed Bunting and as this was my first Little Bunting I needed to be really sure.

Is it a Little Bunting?

By 15.30 I was thinking I would call it a day and go and look for the Lesser Scaup on Cosmeston Lake. I planned to be in the area for two days so I could always come back tomorrow. Except, the warden then appeared and told me that they planned to do some work outside the hide on Saturday and that it was unlikely that I would get to see the bird.

I gave it another half hour, another possible appeared and this time I was convinced - just. The shots are not clear but I can at least, this time, identify the diagnostic features I am looking for.

  • Sharp bill with straight culmen
  • Distinct white eye ring
  • Chestnut cheeks - but not as bright as I would have liked
  • White spot on back of cheek
  • Dark edging around cheek
  • Grey/brown shoulder
  • Crown with dark lateral stripes and brown median stripe. - difficult one this, the crown was darker than the female RB but not as dark as I would have liked
  • Pink Legs
The bird was also smaller than the Reed Buntings I was seeing.

Was I happy? Not really, I wanted a good picture and one that really stood out as being a Little Bunting but it is at least the end of the current search. It's time to move on to other things including what to do with the rest of my two day pass.

My thanks to Peter Suneson, Adam Bowley, and Rich. for help with identification via BirdForum and to Dave who was always confident in the identification and is probably just glad that I will not be going on about it any more.

Did I see anything else at Forest Farm? Well I did get a bit of mission creep when this pair of Bullfinches turned up. I was probably photographing these whilst the Little Bunting was displaying at the other end of the hide.

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