Corn Bunting – Martin Down NNR, Hampshire

I headed to Martin Down on Salisbury Plain to get some chalk grassland and farmland specialists for the year. Although I’m sure I’ll get most of the target species when I return for Turtle Dove in June I thought I’d pay an additional visit now as I knew Grey Partridge could be tricky. Turtle Dove may be even harder and seeing some of the other targets now would give me as much time as possible for the doves in June. Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer, Red-legged Partridge & Grey Partridge would give me four new species for the year.

The forecast was for a sunny start with rain coming in the afternoon and so I headed off early. The Red-legged Partridges were seen very quickly and I checked all of them carefully for the rarer Grey Partridge, no luck. However, as I was walking around the perimeter of the downland a couple of partridges flew a short distance out from the edge of the field before landing in the short grass. I was delighted to see they were Grey Partridges and the only ones I saw all morning.

I had to walk into the middle of the down to start seeing Corn Buntings, they announced their presence with their jangling song and they were then easy to find as there are only a small number of perches to check on the flat rather featureless terrain. 

There were lots of Yellowhammers singing in the early morning sunshine particularly along the hedgerows where they posed nicely. As it clouded over late morning, bird life seemed to quieten down and it became much more difficult to find the Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers which had stopped singing. 

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