Pine Bunting, Dunnington: A blur whose worth is beyond rubies


You’ve gotta go back.
It doesn’t matter how often you miss something, if it’s still around, you’ve gotta go back, no matter how hard it is to connect with.
I’ve managed to dip Pine Bunting four times in my life (including the male I was after in Yorkshire today, which had already refused to play in freezing fog for me last week), and enough was enough.
Motor through the pre-dawn M62 rain, spray and congestion and feel positive.
“Keep ‘scoping the hedgerow, keep ‘scoping the hedgerow, keep ‘scoping the hedgerow”.
The mantra was as obvious as it was necessary once I’d squelched across the empty horse paddock off Intake Lane, Dunnington, to set up my ‘scope in the drizzle at 8am this morning.
Plenty of birds in the stubble field beyond and plenty more in the long, dark hedgerow – Yellowhammers, Bramblings, Corn and Reed Bunts, titmice, thrushes, Chaffinches and Tree Sparrows – all perching up in the gloom briefly before melting away into the branches or diving down in the oblivion of the rank vegetation of the field below.
No other birders around, but I kept ‘scoping as buntings flew up and dropped down.
At least 150 Yellowhammers were feeding in the field or flying off into the mist as I kept looking.
After 10am I was joined by a few other birders and at 10.45am, as I was completing my umpteenth ‘scope sweep through perching birds, I saw a cold grey brown streaked back, with two narrow white wingbars and pale underparts with chestnut streaking – interesting, but the bird’s head was obscured by branches.


Suddenly it moved and there was a pale greyish white crown and supercilium, fringed by dark lines and a glaring white flash on reddish brown ear coverts and a pale bill – bingo!
Even without the cracking ‘scope views of the head of this striking male, the bird was a colder grey brown above and cold pale below compared to the warm tones of all the plumages of the many Yellowhammers there.
It showed a striking pale “U” between its warm brown chest and reddish brown throat.
Pine Bunting hoodoo put to bed at last.
The bird perched up at the top of the branches of the trees on the right of the pic above for long enough for me to get everyone on it, I attempted a crappy record shot and failed (imagine a lovely red, grey, white and brown head stuck on the pic at the top of this entry) and then it flitted off into the mist and drizzle.
Job done.