Corn Bunting: Plain Speaking, 11th October 2021

Corn Bunting are a red-listed bird in the UK, with its population having plummeted as a result of modern farming practices. Given that it is a bird of least concern in the rest of Europe and in its south-west Asian territories, the problem clearly lies within the UK and, therefore, so does the solution.

Since the West Wilts Ringing Group came into its current form, at the beginning of 2013, we have not had any sites at which Corn Bunting are resident. In the years leading up to the North Wilts group splitting off to create their own identity, a total of 429 Corn Buntings had been ringed since our earliest computerised record in the national database at the BTO, starting in the year 2000. Of those, the vast majority had been ringed by Matt Prior and his teams on the Marlborough Downs, near Ogbourne St Andrew, and on the Pewsey Downs, near Stanton St Bernard.

(Before moving on, a little personal anecdote: the first bird I ever ringed was a Corn Bunting. It was on the 10th January 2009 at Ogbourne St Andrew, the second ringing session I had ever attended. Hooked for life.)

In all of the time between 2000 and 2013, only eight of them have been ringed on Salisbury Plain; seven of those at a site near Winterbourne Stoke. Since the split, nobody from the West Wilts Ringing Group has ringed a Corn Bunting at any of our sites. That was until one of the team was lucky enough to catch and ring one at their site on Salisbury Plain on Monday of this week:

Photos courtesy and copyright of Ian Grier

What a cracking bird! I would love to have the opportunity to get close to this species again.