Sat 23rd May 2015

Posted on May 28, 2015 at 1:40 PM

After the excitement of the Bird Race, the rest of May was predictably desolate for birding. Despite regular birding stops, I failed to find more than a handful of migrants on the coast and it seemed most people were also finding it a struggle.

So it was a little surprising that, last night, a photo of a spanking male Black-headed Bunting was posted on the Guernsey Birds website! What was extra confusing was that the record was sent in by the same person that had found the previous island record back in 2009. And like that bird - which most of the island's birders had enjoyed - this bird was also seen in their garden at Jerbourg. Weird.  I even went as far as checking the date & time stamp on the photo to make sure that this wasn't an old picture, uploaded years after the event. But no, it was indeed taken yesterday afternoon and this was simply a coincidence.

So I arrived at Jerbourg at about 7 am this Saturday morning, 23rd May, and was a little surprised that nobody else was already looking for it, since Black-headed Bunting is bloody rare. I wasn't feeling very certain of finding it because I knew the garden was large and that the feeders are not really visible from the road. However, as I reached the first gap in the roadside hedge, I looked across and it was there hopping on the lawn like a sparrow, right in front of me! I couldn't believe I was that lucky, seeing the bird immediately on arrival, and so close. Such a deep and vivid yellow colour on the underparts, contrasting with a solid black cap and a rich chestnut colour on the mantle, it was a gaudy sight. It was too dark and dingy for proper photography and I phoned out a grapevine message that it was still present. A few other birders arrived and we watched it on and off, feeding amongst the daisies on the massive lawn giving excellent views.

So I have now seen Black-headed Bunting just twice ever in the world, and both times they have been in exactly the same spot, six years apart. This species is a proper rarity and it fabulous to see it, BUT why oh why are we always getting 'repeat' rarities here. And this was almost an identical repeat too - the saying "lightning doesn't strike in the same place twice" is clearly nonsense. (and literally nonsense, of course - that's the reason for lightning conductors)


Black-headed Bunting

Black-headed Bunting - male, Jerbourg, 23 May 2015

Black-headed Bunting

Apart from the excitement of the bunting, the island has been very quiet. I saw a few migrant Wheatears, but few other passerines, then Common Sandpiper and Redshank both visiting Pulias late in the month. But I have to be satisfied with the birds this spring overall, and there is still a chance of something else good in the couple of weeks to come.


Redshank - Pulias, 11 May 2015 - we rarely see breeding-plumaged birds here on the island.

When the Bird Race is over, that is usually the signal for me to start seriously looking for other wildlife again. So I dusted of the moth trap (literally - it always gets covered by some dusty fungus over the winter) and put it out a few times. There had been an influx of Bordered Straw throughout the south of the UK and I managed to catch one also, the first decent migrant of the year. I've also identified quite a few new beetles and have reached about 130 species now. My target this summer is to hit 2000 species for Guernsey, which I should manage with a bit of effort.

Bordered Straw

Bordered Straw - garden, 15 May 2015

I was fortunate to be able to spend a couple of hours on the cliff paths of Jerbourg with visiting expert entomologist Ian Beavis on Thursday. We found plenty of insects in the sheltered spots and he showed me lots of types of bee, explaining the different groups and species, and the differences between them all. It was very interesting and extremely useful to me as a beginner entomologist.

Nomada flava

Nomada flava - Jerbourg, 21 May 2015 - this is a species of 'cuckoo bee' and Ian spotted this individual hanging off a leaf, asleep, holding on just with its jaws. Apparently, many solitary bee species sleep in this way.

Green Hairstreak

Green Hairstreak - Jerbourg, 21 May 2015

Common Broomrape

Broomrape sp. - Fort Hommet, 22 May 2015 - there appeared to be two types of broomrape growing at Fort Hommet. A smaller, more typical brown and whitish variety, and these much larger, purple and pink ones. Identification of broomrapes is probably beyond me, but perhaps they are both forms of the Common Broomrape.

Categories: 2015 Spring, Other Rarities