• Sim Elliott

Corn Buntings on Bullock Hill and Wheatear & Stonechats in the Castle Hill Nature Reserve 12.09.21

On Sunday (13.09.21) I walked around Caste Hill Nature Reserve with a friend. In a field next to the reserve, on Bullock Hill, in a field of Sunflowers, there was a small flock/family group of Corn Buntings. Corn buntings are nationally endangered and are on the RSPB red list.

The RSPB description of the Corn Bunting undersells this beautiful bird: This nondescript lowland farmland bird is the largest of the buntings and is most usually seen perched on a wire or post. It is a stout, dumpy bird brown which flies off with a fluttering flight and with its legs characteristically 'dangling'. Its dramatic population decline in the UK makes it a Red List species. Corn Bunting Bird Facts | Emberiza Calandra - The RSPB



Following an earlier, historical decrease, Corn Buntings declined very steeply between the mid 1970s and mid 1980s, with local extinctions across large sections of their former range. Subsequently the decline has continued, but at a reduced rate. There has been widespread moderate decline across Europe since 1980 (PECBMS: PECBMS 2017a), and the species has recently declined to extinction in Ireland (Taylor & O'Halloran 2002). Studies of the now isolated eastern Scottish population stress the importance of providing uncut or late-cut grasses or cereals, 30-100 cm tall, with a dense ground layer of weeds or crop vegetation, as nesting habitat (Perkins et al. 2015). Species | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology Woodward, I.D., Massimino, D., Hammond, M.J., Harris, S.J., Leech, D.I., Noble, D.G., Walker, R.H., Barimore, C., Dadam, D., Eglington, S.M., Marchant, J.H., Sullivan, M.J.P., Baillie, S.R. & Robinson, R.A. (2018) BirdTrends 2018: trends in numbers, breeding success and survival for UK breeding birds. Research Report 708. BTO, Thetford. www.bto.org/birdtrends






Within the Castle Hill National Nature Reserve we saw Wheatears (passage migrants) and Stonechats (all year round)


Map of the Castle Hill National Nature Reserve; screen shot of: Magic Map Application (defra.gov.uk)



Magic Map Application (defra.gov.uk)


EC Directive 92/43 on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora Citation for Special Area of Conservation (SAC) Name: Castle Hill Unitary Authority/County: 114.68 Component SSSI: Castle Hill SSSI Site description: This is one of the best examples in East Sussex of the nationally uncommon chalk grassland habitat. The variation of plant and animal communities with aspect and slope is of special ecological interest. The chalk grassland consists of a mosaic of calcareous semi-natural dry grasslands, notably sheep’s-fescue – meadow oat-grass (Festuca ovina – Helictotrichon pratense) grassland and upright brome Bromopsis erecta grassland, as well as the taller tor-grass Brachypodium pinnatum grassland which is valuable for grasshoppers and crickets. Castle Hill’s important assemblage of rare and scarce species includes early spider-orchid Ophrys sphegodes and burnt orchid Orchis ustulata. The colony of early spider-orchid is one of the largest in the UK. Qualifying habitats. The site is designated under article 4(4) of the Directive (92/43/EEC) as it hosts the following habitats listed in Annex I: Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies: on calcareous substrates (Festuco Brometalia) (important orchid sites). (Dry grasslands and scrublands on chalk or limestone, including important orchid sites). Qualifying species: The site is designated under article 4(4) of the Directive (92/43/EEC) as it hosts the following species listed in Annex II: - Early gentian Gentianella anglica


Wheatears, Oenanthe oenanthe, and Stonechats, Saxicola rubicola, in Falmer Bottom


The wheatear is a small mainly ground-dwelling bird. It hops or runs on the ground. The male is blue-grey above, with black wings and white below with an orange flush to the breast. It has a black cheek. In flight it shows a white rump and a black 'T' shape on its tail.

It is a summer visitor and passage migrant. Birds breed mainly in western and northern Britain and western Ireland, although smaller numbers do breed in southern and eastern England. It winters in central Africa. Wheatear Bird Facts | Oenanthe Oenanthe - The RSPB






Wheatears

Stonechats


Stonechats are robin sized birds. Males have striking black heads with white around the side of their neck, orange-red breasts and a mottled brown back. Females lack the male's black head, but have brown backs and an orange tinge to their chests. Birds are frequently seen flicking their wings while perched, often doing so on the tops of low bushes. As its name suggests, birds utter a sharp loud call that sound like two stones being tapped together. They breed in western and southern parts of the UK, but disperse more widely in winter. Stonechat Bird Facts | Saxicola Torquata - The RSPB


Two Wheatears and Two Stonechats



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