Nov 052023

A first winter male Red-headed Bunting had been present at Flamborough Head, Yorkshire, for a number of days in mid October, tempting me to go and see it, having been found and tentatively identified on 21st October 2023. This species is super rare, and despite previously being recorded in Britain, the species is currently classed as Category D, due to many of the older records relating to adult males, at spasmodic times of the year. However, recently records have been reassessed since the cage bird trade was banned during the 80’s. All records post 1990 are being reviewed, as since the ban, the bird has become exceedingly rare, so there’s a good possibility that this bird is a genuine vagrant. It arrived with a good supporting cast, Siberian Stonechat and Little Bunting in the same hedge for example. Also other vagrants from Euro-Asia were around, Two-barred Greenish Warbler and Pallas’s Warbler on the day of my arrival, 30th October. So plenty of eastern migrants, to hopefully support its credibility. A DNA sample had been sent off for analysis, and a few days ago it was confirmed that this bird was in deed a Red-headed Bunting. (early November)

I also read recently with interest, that Red-headed Bunting moults on arrival on its wintering grounds. This bird apparently, started to moult a few days after its arrival and was still present on 2nd November in severe moult. The past few days it has been extremely elusive, with no reports since the 2nd November.

During my visit on 30th October, I managed to find the bird in the morning, much to the relief of the gathered crowd, as there had been no news on the bird prior to my arrival. I also saw 7 Waxwings, flying over the golf course heading north, and although distant, I had good views of the Two-barred Greenish Warbler, but failed to see the Pallas’s Warbler. There was also a large flock of Pink-footed Geese (Pinkies) feeding in nearby fields, and numerous and very obliging Goldcrests, these were my “Sprites” of the day!

I would like to thank Jack Bucknall for allowing me to use his excellent image, in this Blog, of the Two-barred Greenish Warbler. The picture portraits the bird just how I saw it, as it was feeding in distant vegetation. Unfortunately I was never able to get my camera on the bird, so this photo is a great memory.

Red-headed Bunting – 1st winter male with male Yellowhammer.
Two-barred Greenish Warbler – Image by Jack Bucknall© – many thanks..

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