Crouching bunting, leaping lark

Somebody shoot me. Am absolutely fucked with exhaustion. It’s been a long, long weekend of more or less dawn-to-dusk tramping around birding, and it’s been so worth it. Kicked off today with the usual circuit of Skaw, before decamping to the quarry to try for some Yellow-breasted Bunting record shots (am under no illusions about how shite the camera lens is…) and more importantly, to take some detailed field notes. Someone had to!

Got the obligatory shite record shots, before heading over to Isbister for some hot migrant action. (A Chaffinch, one of several new in on the isle today – Isbister back on form of promising much, and delivering so very little in return for so very much effort.

From there back to the quarry to try and help some visiting birders connect with the now elusive bunting. Russ Heywood managed to briefly relocate it, but by the time we’d found the others birding elsewhere on the isle, it had vanished into thin air again. It’s strange – some of the Yellow-breasted Buntings I’ve seen have been spooky beasts that won’t let you anywhere near them (a couple on Fair Isle between ’92 and ’95 spring readily to mind), whilst this one and the Portland bird (’93?) are bombproof – the Portland bird ran between my feet at one point, and this one sits tight like a locustella until you step on it, and then flies a short distance before settling again to feed on fallen grass seeds and allow a close approach again.

Back home, and immediately found a Great Spotted Woodpecker digging in my compost heap. It flew a short way off, before discovering some nice woodwormy rotten timber on one of my outbuildings, and spent much of the afternoon ripping that apart. Possibly more fruitful than whatever it was finding in the chicken shit and kitchen scraps… Other notables were 6 Lesser Whitethroats around the house.

JLI and BM came along and we gave the plantation the once over before JLI had to leave for a prior commitment. No sooner had he driven away than he phoned us – he’d found a Short-toed Lark in the middle of the road! It flew into the fields alongside my house, so we walked up to it and got a few photos before it returned to the road, and then flew away in the direction of the airstrip.

Finished the day with the nets up in the plantation. Got a good double-figure haul of Goldcrests, but still no rare phylloscs this autumn. Yet…

Final scores for the past 48 hours:

Wryneck (2)
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Yellow-breasted Bunting
Short-toed Lark.

Plus good numbers of Redstart, Whinchat, Lesser Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, Tree Pipit etc etc. And a Great Spotted Woodpecker!