I finally decided it was time to go and dip the Dunnington Pine Bunting. The bird was so close to me in Halifax it would have been stupid not to go at some point, but it was not playing ball at all and a large part of me knew I would not see it, so had no ambition to go and sit in a field for a few hours for no reason. However, I decided to give it a go on the Monday after my awesome weekend out twitching. I did not have high expectations for the day or of my chances of seeing the bird.
I made it on to the site for late morning, and quickly found the location where people were watching the birds. There were good numbers of finches and buntings in the hedgerows and it was simply a case of filtering through them all in the hope of picking out the Pine Bunting. The main problem was the birds were extremely mobile, and there were both Kestrel and Sparrowhawk on site constantly moving the birds. At one point all the birds left to another field, so I headed round there only for them all to fly back round to the initial site. Once back at the initial site I learned that, of course, the Pine Bunting had shown briefly not minutes before I came back. Typical.
However, I did not have to wait long before it came back. As I was sifting through the buntings and finches the birder next to me announced that he had it in the top of a large Oak tree. I quickly got my scope to it and picked the bird out, the white cheek being obvious. I managed to grab two phone-scoped shots before the Sparrowhawk came bombing through and all the birds flew off. And that was that.
I did not expect to see it, so the fact that I actually did see it was pretty exciting and unexpected. I could not face waiting for another appearance though, having already been present on site for a couple of hours. I headed back to make sure I was back in Halifax in good time for work.
The Pine Bunting may have been a lifer and a mega, but the best part of the day was simply seeing so many farmland birds all in one place. Hundreds of Yellowhammers made up the most part, but with good numbers of Corn Buntings, Tree Sparrows and Bramblings in tow, as well as commoner species such as Chaffinch, House Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and a solitary Siskin. It was a pretty incredible site, and some of the male Yellowhammers were unbelievable to look at, so bright and colourful. In addition to the finches and buntings there were good numbers of Woodpigeon, Stock Dove and corvids feeding on the stubble. Really it was something I have not really experienced before, so many farmland birds. Anyone thinking of going for the Pine Bunting should go just to appreciate the spectacle of commoner birds, especially the Yellowhammers.
-Brambling & Yellowhammer
Dunnington: Brambling, Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Reed Bunting, Pine Bunting, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Grey Wagtail, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk,