Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Corn Bunting.

Corn Bunting. Phil Slade

The Corn Bunting (CB) has a feeble flight and with its legs dangling it doesn't suggest a strong flyer, yet the species has at one time or another managed to colonise the remotest fringes of Britain. The CB owes much throughout history to mans alteration to the environment, the spread of cereal agriculture across Europe and reaching Britain a few thousand years ago resulted in the clearing of vast areas of woodland creating open habitats suitable for the CB.

In the north of its range the CB is largely confined to arable farmland, in winter the bird feeds mainly on cereal stubble a habitat which has declined greatly over recent years. In Lancashire the CB was uncommon towards the end of the 19th century and Mitchell commented it was 'very locally distributed and seldom seen except where grain is grown'. Today the reason for the dramatic crash of the CB - and the Yellowhammer for that matter - is unquestionably down to intensification and changes in farming methods which include the switch to autumn sowing of cereals with the subsequent loss of seed-rich stubble in the winter, and replacement of hay by silage, food supplies have also been depleted by the use of herbicides, pesticides playing their part  in the dramatic fall of the CB.

The CB is often referred to by some as a 'dull bird'. I personally don't know of a single species of bird I'd ever refer to as 'dull', but I do know if I'd like to see the CB in our recording area in north Lancashire I'll need a good deal of luck on my side, and if I do it'll be a 'straggler'. In our area 52 years ago in 1959 the CB was a scarce and very local resident, by 1997 it was declared as possibly extinct, today it most certainly is. However, just outside the border on Tuesday 18 January I recorded up to 100 CB's on Union Lane. Areas in south-west Lancashire and the Fylde are where the CB has a healthy status, that of a common breeding bird.

By the way, this I found both news and interesting, and if you're local....  

High Brown Fritillary. Steven Cheshire

....did you know about Myers Allotment and the High Brown Fritillary 


Phil said...

Not sure which documant you quote and how old it is Pete, but I would dispute that as of today the Corn Bunting is a Fylde "common" breeding bird, rather it seems to be still declining at an alarming rate.

Pete Woodruff said...

A very interesting comment/question Phil.

I can tell you the date is 2009, but I've elaborated in your e-mail inbox.

Interesting you should come in on this one as I thought seriously about consulting you on the subject of the CB when I was thinking of doing the brief notes for the post.

Geoff Gradwell said...

I find I learn something new every time I visit your blog – THANKS.

I hadn't seen a Corn Bunting until about three years ago. There seems to be small pockets where they are more readily seen across the Fylde (which surprised me full stop) compared to the grain growing areas further south (north of Watford, south of Birmingham etc).

Pete Woodruff said...

Whilst much appreciated you're too kind with your comments Geoff.

I'll take this opportunity to reiterate....I've always been rather surprised to find two references to the Corn Bunting as being a 'common breeding bird' in Lancashire.