An unidentified bunting

Blue Lagoon Nature Reserve. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Blue Lagoon Nature Reserve. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Today I revisited my local birding path, the Blue Lagoon Nature Reserve. I was a little bit late but it was still nice with lovely weather. The Blue Lagoon NR is a good place to enjoy the variety of bird songs at least in spring. Today was not any different. Every bird was singing, the buntings as well…

I always follow the very same routing and always submit my records to eBird still in the field using an iPhone 4s. Today I broke the route for a while when I heard an unknown bird song. Hearing an unfamiliar bird song would not normally surprise me much here, as some bird species are singing slightly differently in England than those in Hungary (e.g. Lesser Yellowthroat, European Robin) and not talking about those which never or rarely sing in Hungary (e.g. Dunnock). The song of local Common Reed Buntings doesn’t seem to be different though. The song I heard was a bunting-like song. First I thought it probably was a kind of rosefinch but when I replayed its song on xeno-canto.org it became obvious that the Common Rosefinch song was way different from what I was hearing. While I tried to identify which bird this could be, the bird was still singing. I was standing opposite the sun and could not see the bird well. All I saw was its colour tone. It’s belly was rather brownish instead of white and the head was similarly duller rather than black. I wasn’t able to identify the exact colours in detail due to bad light angle.

When I tried for other species on xeno-canto the song was almost identical to the replayed song of Ortolan Bunting. I replayed the song of a german and a polish bird at the scene but didn’t play the non-European songs. At home I listened to the Georgian birds which were also nearly the same with the song of “my bird”.

Ortolan Bunting – Germany

Unfortunately the bird was not singing too long as a dog walker let his dog jump into a small pool behind the bird. The massive splash scared the bird and it flitted in the bushes. In flight, in a bit better light, I saw a streaked brown back and the bunting-like whitish/white outer tail feathers. I tried hard to relocate the bird but as it stopped singing I wasn’t able to find it again.

Despite the song identification was close to 100%, I still was not able to say, it was an Ortolan Bunting, without doubt, as I couldn’t see its colours well. I would say it was a very weird bunting. I spent about two hours and 8 minutes in the reserve but never heard the bird singing again. Probably it is worth to revisit the site early in the morning when every bird is singing while dog walkers are still sleeping…

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