Ticking a long chased bird: Little Bunting in Bedfordshire

In 2002 when I was on a Scandinavian birding trip, I thought the Little Bunting wouldn’t be too difficult to add to my life list. The only morning when I got exhausted and some fever the team located a bird around Kuusamo, Finland. I failed to find one later on the very same spot. I also missed several opportunities to see trapped birds in the last couple of years.

A couple of weeks ago a Little Bunting was reported from the neighbor county, Bedfordshire. I simply wasn’t able to find a clean weekend to get there, but this time everything was perfect for a good birding trip. I took a train to Bedford and a cab to Willington. Unfortunately, the location info in the BirdGuide app wasn’t correct and I just realised it later that the grid reference points to the other side of the river. First challenge was to find a bridge near Great Barford.

After a bit of trek I manged to find the footbridge and a single birder at the spot. He couldn’t see the bird during his one and a half hours stay. This wasn’t something I wanted to hear. Luckyly, I didn’t have to wait another 1.5 hours to see the bird. 10 minutes later Common Chaffinches and Common Reed Buntings started to feed on the seeds followed by an indeed little, neat-looking Little Bunting. I asked the birder if he had seen it but he wasn’t sure. As female Common Reed Buntings were also feeding closer to the bushes making it was easy to see the differences in the plumage traits of the two species. What a bird it was.

The characteristic head pattern and bill shape made this bird easy to pick. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

The Little Bunting fed on seeds and wasn’t mix with the aggressive Common Reed Buntins. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was taken by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

I have to say, this is a loveable little taiga visitor and it was well worth the very early wake up and 10 miles walk. Just after the birder left the sun came out and I could enjoy the perfect views of this rarity.

The colours and patterns of the Little Bunting perfectly blends with the habitat it was feeding on. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

The Little Bunting became the 2,186th bird species on my life list. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

It wasn’t easy to locate this bird once in the bush. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

This is the small bush area where the Little Bunting and other birds fed on the seeds. © Gyorgy Szimuly This photo was by a Sony Cyber-shot HX400V camera.

Here is the list of birds I added to eBird at the spot:

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) 2
Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) 2
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 1
Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) 1
Common Wood-Pigeon (Columba palumbus) 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 1
Eurasian Green Woodpecker (Eurasian) (Picus viridis viridis/karelini) 1
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) 1
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 8
Eurasian Skylark (European) (Alauda arvensis) 4
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 4
Great Tit (Parus major) 3
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus europaeus) 2
Eurasian Wren (British) (Troglodytes troglodytes indigenus) 2
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) 1
Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita collybita) 4
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) 2
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) 4
White Wagtail (British) (Motacilla alba yarrellii) 2
Little Bunting (Emberiza pusilla) 1
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) 7
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) 9

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