Take a wander down to the Mains of Dun and see if you can spot any of our resident Reed Buntings. You could be excused for thinking they are sparrows flying around in flocks if you did come across any! On closer inspection you may notice the white moustache that droops down from their small dark bill and continues round the neck forming a collar. The male’s black bib is much less noticeable this time of year as their black hoods are replaced by black-brown streaks similar to that of the females. In flight, be aware of the grey rump and the white outer tail feathers as they are quite prominent. In winter they tend to stay in small flocks and favour not only reed-beds but also cultivated farmland such as rape fields.
There has been a recent sighting of Fieldfares by our volunteer reserve rangers, whilst working at the Mains of Dun. This is a classic winter thrush that can also be observed in flocks. These are a common passage migrant and winter visitor from northern Europe and Scandinavia and are found on fields and pastures in large flocks. They are sometimes accompanied by Redwings, however none were observed on this occasion. Fieldfare can be confused with Mistle Thrush but are recognised by their distinctive grey head and rump separated by a rich brown saddle. In flight, the long black tail is conspicuous.
Observed also was a female Kestrel sitting on a post, watching many Twite feeding not so far away. The rich brown colours stood out very well against the snowy backdrop of the fields beyond. These birds of prey are currently amber listed as they have been in steady decline since the 1970s. This is possibly due to changes in farm practices leading to habitat loss of their prey species such as Short-tailed Field Vole and this happens to be their favoured prey. The intensification of farming reduces large areas of foraging ground which supports these small mammal populations. Latest figures have indicated a decline in Scotland between 1995 and 2008 to be 54% and for 2008 to 2009 to be 64%.