As usual with these rare events, I was many. many miles away from Bedfordshire when news broke of Ross Ahmed's county first discovery and had to wait patiently before I could finally get an opportunity to visit and search for it. Anyhow, that chance finally arrived this morning and I was on site and in position shortly after 0900 hours. DJO, MJP, JG, LC, BC and a few other local observers were already in situ when I pitched up at the bridge over the river and after several shifts of buntings in the tree tops, I decided a different approach as this was clearly going to be a long haul.
I followed the considerably muddy track along the outside edge of the maize strip checking Reed Buntings as I advanced. A sizeable flock of them were feeding at the tops of the maize on the seedheads. As I got perhaps 130 yards along, I heard the familiar hard ticking call of the LITTLE BUNTING and briefly got onto it as it perched alarmed on a seedhead. It then flew to the adjacent hedgerow and perched, still scolding loudly (repetitively ticking) and flicking its tail at the same time. Quickly, it dropped back down into the field and as I manoeuvred to get into a better position of the light, it flew back into the hedgerow and perched, virtually in exactly the same spot. I then saw Tony Hukin appear and beckoned him over. Within minutes of him joining me, the Little Bunting returned once more to the exact same spot and perched - this time in brilliant view. Just as I was about to get the perfect photograph, the barrel gun in the field went off and flushed all of the buntings. All returned to the maize.
All 17 other observers on site all then came round from the bridge and joined in with the search but with the barrel gun exploding every half hour and the jittery nature of the flock, perhaps numbering 90 Reed Buntings with an additional 37 Linnet, the task was a very difficult one indeed. Although I heard the bird ticking after I last saw it in the hedgerow at 1015, I never personally set eyes on it again after that time, despite a lot of diligent searching, but Dave Odell and Pete Smith independently glimpsed it subsequently some 70 yards further along the bordering scrub. This is one very difficult bird, just like all of the other Little Buntings bar one I have tried for this winter in the UK and I feel very lucky indeed to have connected.
Park sensibly in Great Barford village NW of the Barford Great Ouse roadbridge and walk west along the public footpath that takes you along the north side of the river. Keep walking for around 750 yards to a green bridge that crosses the river. At this point, there is a narrow strip of maize bordering the riverbank that is harbouring the wintering bunting flock. You can choose to either watch from the bridge as the Reed Buntings perch high in the trees or skirt the edge of the field and search from there - take your pick.
During the afternoon, I failed to locate the Twite in the rough field opposite the entrance to The Lodge RSPB (Sandy) but did count 107 Linnet, while 6 BRAMBLING were feeding with Chaffinches in the horse paddocks thereabouts