As Norman and Sandra commented in their trip report for Elmley, one of the highlights of the trip was seeing and hearing two male corn buntings. During the day we saw five marsh harriers flying together, over 3 thousand wigeon, lapwing and redshank display flights, and avocets prospecting for a nest site. Not bad eh? But for me the highlight was the two corn bunting. The two males were shouting at each other and even I could hear their song – said to sound like the jangling of keys. We all stopped to watch them for some time. The two birds ignored us completely, they had more important matters to attend to. Rather sadly, corn buntings and similar looking birds are sometimes given the epithet of “LBJs” (Little brown jobs) – but how wrong can you be. What a stunning bird! A few days later some of us were back on Sheppey near the RSPB raptor watch point at Harty.
Some bramble bushes here, have been the wintering site for a large group of corn buntings. They come back every year and it is always worth stopping to watch them. On this occasion there were at least 80 birds. But having watched two birds setting up breeding territories two days earlier, and only a few miles away, I wondered why these birds were still “together”. I had always assumed that the bramble site contained overwintering local birds. So why were they not out there, all over Sheppey, engaged in territorial campaigns? Perhaps they are all females and are just waiting for the “boys” to sort themselves out. But perhaps they are not local birds. Perhaps they are from much further north and “know” that they have to wait longer for conditions to improve in their home territories. Such wonderful birds and so much to discover about them.
Like many farmland birds, corn buntings have been in decline for some years. They have been the subject of much conservation work. Wouldn’t it be terrible not to see them?
Thanks to Steve and Terry for the photographs.