As I approach four years of watching Canons Farm and Banstead Woods, I still haven't found my very own nationally scarce bird there and I've always thought it's something that's only a matter of time and will probably actually happen sooner rather than later, given the number of hours I put in to the site. Such a find might well have slipped through my fingers this morning when I had a very interesting-looking bunting all too briefly. An interesting soft, kind of wet, ticking call, superficially similar to a Yellowhammer's voice yet obviously different - I hear Yellowhammers on a daily basis. I guess it was so soft as to make it difficult to justify calling it a 'ticking' sound, but anyway... Suddenly a brownish-grey streaky bunting alighted atop a nearby sapling but it saw me and startled, flying towards Canons Farmyard. It stayed just long enough to me to get an absolute split second on it with the binoculars. I didn't have time enough to check any of the features specifically, but the general impression looked good for Ortolan and put my brain into gear in terms of the call I'd been hearing. Although I've no experience of Ortolan, I have listened to tapes before and tapes listened to today seemed a good match. In flight, which made up by far the largest chunk of my viewing time, the bird seemed less rakish and angular than the shape I associate with Yellowhammers, and it called more before dropping down, sadly not to be seen again despite searching. It was no Corn Bunting or Reed Bunting. So, chances are it could well have been an Ortolan but we may never know for sure. I'd have wanted several more seconds and the chance to have a good look at the bird's features before claiming it, it's just such a shame it didn't show better! I have my fingers crossed on the off-chance it will hang around and re-surface.
The bunting frustration aside, it was a good day with a Spotted Flycatcher in Circle Field and overhead passage involving three Yellow Wagtails, 15 Meadow Pipits and two Swallows.