There roughly 150 corn buntings in the flock of about 800 birds at Old Rattray. The majority were reed buntings of which we caught 134. One corn bunt caught out of 150 highlights how difficult they are to catch compared to reed bunts. We got close a few times but they always just missed the net, rising from the crop higher than the reed bunts and heading for the tops of the nearby trees, rather than diving into lower cover (and nets).
The crop is a specially targeted mix for buntings, including three grain types and some brassica. Earlier in the winter there were 1200 birds using the crop, comprising of mainly buntings, with 400 yellowhammers and 600 reed buntings but only 20 corn bunts. During the second cold snap with snow, there seems to have been a distinct departure of yellowhammers from many of these crops....not sure where to?
There was inevitably a few raptors around the flock during the ringing session, including two merlins, sparrowhawk, kestrel, buzzard and hen harrier. The next day, most of the corn bunts had shifted to the cover crops at Starnafin at the Loch of Strathbeg RSPB reserve. The crops here are very similar to the Rattray one and include some of the same seed mix. They hung around for a few days and I managed to see our green and white ringed female near the visitors centre, but more supinely staff reported red over red, which was the first corn bunt we ever ringed as an adult in 2004 about 20km away!
Thanks to Chris Jones for his pictures from the day.