Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Gigantic CORN BUNTING gathering just over border in Bedfordshire


A band of heavy rain moved through the region throughout the morning bringing some localised flooding. Temperatures dropped for a while too (to 3 degrees C) before picking up during the afternoon. A cold SE wind was blowing.

Spurned on by Richard Bashford and Francis Tusa, I checked out the Stotfold bunting feast today and was overwhelmed by the sheer number of birds - a truly wonderful experience. Also checked out the Little Egret roosts at dusk, and caught up with a few missing Bedfordshire Year-ticks.


Still no sign of December's Common Stonechats, but 3 LITTLE EGRETS again (including two feeding in the Chess just east of the bridge), a Grey Heron and 2 Little Grebes.


Following a report of a Dipper seen on 1 and 17 January, I went over and checked the Bulbourne in both directions either side of the inn. A Green Sandpiper was the only bird noted, although the habitat is perfect for a vagrant Black-bellied Dipper.


Two RED KITES circling together at 1133 hours over Junction 8 of the M1 just east of Hemel at TL 097 076.


Well, what a spectacular. I arrived on site shortly after midday and after following the footpath to just beyond the Poplar plantation, came upon the three stubble fields harbouring an impressive number of wintering farmland species. A guy was walking four dogs in the fields and was scattering birds everywhere. Consequently, the 'clicking' mass of CORN BUNTINGS erupted, moving from the east field to the west and landing in the shorter stubble just short of the houses. Now, I had a chance to click-count them, and carefully panning the 'scope from left to right, amassed an enormous total of 738 birds (five counts in total, registering 611, 696, 738, 722 and 704 whilst in the stubble). Later, the flocks dispersed into two main groups, and on one occasion all flew up into the tall Poplars - this resulted in even higher counts, with the peak reaching 859 birds - a flock of Spanish steppe proportions and truly awesome. This is the largest single flock of Corn Buntings I have ever recorded in Britain and a truly significant find. Corn Buntings have become seriously depleted in numbers in recent years so a flock of this proportion is truly outstanding. The birds were quite wide-ranging during my stay, smaller parties branching off and flying south across the A 507.

In addition to the Corn Buntings, there were also 220 EURASIAN SKYLARKS, 38 Chaffinch, 25 Reed Buntings, 50 Yellowhammers and several Linnets, as well as 34 Stock Doves (in one feeding flock), 87 Common Starlings, 106 Redwings and a few Fieldfares. Two Common Kestrels were in the vicinity but I did not see the Merlin (despite returning towards dusk).


See map opposite. Leave the A1 at the A 507 Shefford turning and continue west on the new bypass to beyond the second roundabout parking in the layby on the south side, often utilised by a 'bus' cafe. Walk back east towards the A1 and after 150 yards, walk north past the 6-bar metal gate and take the track off to the right. Continue 120 yards through the small plantation and this brings you out into the large stubble fields, where the central footpath provides you with ample opportunities for viewing. The fields are just SW of Stotfold village.


A late afternoon visit at 1613 hours revealed the presence of 1 adult Mute Swan and 12 LITTLE EGRETS standing on the east wooded shore pre-roost.


At dusk/dark at 1647 hours, a total of 8 LITTLE EGRETS was roosting on the south island, along with 4 Grey Herons (including a pair busily repairing a nest). The lake also held 8 adult Mute Swans

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