I got a bit of an unexpected, but rather nice surprise today.
The dilemma I have doing my job is: "What happens if/when I/another surveyor I work with finds a rare/scarce bird on one of our windfarm sites?" Unfortunately, due to many of my sites been highly confidential in their nature (because for some reason windfarms are not particularly popular) releasing news of where a rarity has been found would potentially give away a location of a proposed windfarm, hence why my work related posts are rather vague when it comes to locations. All records I get find their way back to the county recorder in one way or another eventually. Many of our sites are on private land with no public access.
Past rarities/scarcities I/other surveyors have had on my sites that spring to mind have included Blyth's Pipit, Richard's Pipit, Bluethroat, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Marsh Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Pallas’s Warbler, Barred Warbler, Great Grey Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, Honey Buzzard, Wryneck, Kentish Plover, Caspian Tern, Grey Phalarope, Waxwing, and a whole host of rare breeding species such as Montagu’s Harrier, Quail etc etc…
Today I was doing a walkover survey for wintering birds, it was a strange day with areas totally devoid of birds but with other areas totally rammed. Several thousand Golden Plover and Lapwing were the main feature of the day, along with several hundred geese. Totals included approximately 600+ Brents, 60 Barnacle, 26 Pink-footed and best of all 2 Tundra Bean Geese, only the second time I’ve had this species on a survey. I managed to sneak up within 40m of the Beans using a small hedge as cover so got some nice views.
Passerines were fairly thin on the ground, a few thrushes appeared to be moving along the hedgerows, mainly Redwing and Fieldfare but with good numbers of Blackbird and 2 Mistle Thrush too. A few finches were moving around, Goldfinch, Linnet and Chaffinch been the main feature however Lesser Redpoll was also noted, as too was a single Lapland Bunting.
After sneaking up on the Bean Geese I continued along the hedge where I flushed a bird, a bunting. It circled low and landed behind me on the top of a low hedge, I got my bins up onto it, the bird was side on and the first thing that caught my attention was the browny/orangy flank markings, I looked up a bit further and was greeted by a very distinct face pattern looking back at me. I was 6 feet from a 1st winter type RUSTIC BUNTING! No sooner had the fact clicked in my brain it was off it looped back round and dropped over the ridge. I’m having this I thought so I raced after where it had gone down only to be greeted by a water filed ditch that was pretty much 10 foot vertically deep with a good 10 foot wide bit of water. NO!!! I scanned as far as I could see in both directions but there was simply no way I was getting across the ditch! Pure frustration! A Yellowhammer and several Skylark flew over from the other side of the ditch but there was no sign of the desired Rustic Bunting.
After an hour or so of trying to get to the area where the bird went down I eventually found a way across, though by this time the wind was really picking up and a storm was rapidly approaching, if the bird was still about there was no chance it was going to show so unfortunately I had to give up on relocating it. I was really gutted that it managed to get away.
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get any photos due to the brevity of the views (and not having a camera to hand) but below is a picture of the Rustic Bunting I found last autumn at Flambrough – it looked pretty similar to this bird as you’d expect!
Rustic Bunting (Phonescoped) October 2010.
Now, as stated at the beginning of this post I can’t say where the bird was, but rest assured I’ll be submitting a record to the relevant county recorder in due course.