Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Balranald Buntings

A real birding highlight of a recent trip to North Uist was hearing Lapland Buntings singing for the first time. A group of at least 41 birds were hanging around the Balranald RSPB visitor centre and many of the males were getting into their striking summer plumage. It had been many years since I had last seen this plumage on a similar bird on my local patch in North Wales and I thoroughly enjoyed the close views of one particularly tame male who fed at the side of the path.

After feeding he hopped up onto the fence for a look-a-like pose with a bird that I had photographed on Fair Isle last autumn.

It was not just Lapland Buntings at Balranald. A smart male Reed Bunting was feeding along the strandline along with a wave of White Wagtails. This one shown here was singing at Barn's Ness this week.

Not all buntings area as visually striking - Balranald is also well known for its Corn Buntings, though we only managed to see this lone individual. He was singing as well, and I hope that a female has responded to help boost the precarious population of this disappearing species. As a breeding and resident species it is now apparently extinct in Lothian. I was lucky enough to see a single at Barn's Ness last autumn, which was only one of two records that I know of in the county last year.

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