The corn bunting is one of the rarest birds in Scotland and one of its last strongholds is the East Neuk where there is a remnant population of about 200. They can be heard singing from wires and prominent bushes around St Monans, Pittenweem and Anstruther and have a distinctive jangling song.
For many years the RSPB has run a project encouraging farmers in the East Neuk to sow 5 acre patches of cereal plots as winter food for the corn bunting and this has enabled the population to cling on.
In 2014 the Estates approached Yvonne Stephan, corn bunting officer for the RSPB, and following a presentation from her undertook to establish feeding plots on some of their in-hand farms. This resulted in a doubling in the area of plots for the corn bunting in the East Neuk and in 2015 there was the first range expansion and increase in number for many years.
Balcaskie, in the heart of the Corn bunting range, has recently adopted wild headlands across all their in-hand farms (wild headlands are a technique for encouraging weeds and therefore insects in the edge of cereal fields). The Balcaskie wild life ranger has observed smaller territories for corn bunting this year (probably a consequence of increased chick-food availablilty from the insects) as well as more singing males, which is very positive.
The Ranger also legally controls crows, stoats and weasels which all predate corn buntings and other farmland birds. Where food, insects, cover and predation control are all in place (as in Peppering in Sussex) there can be huge increase in song bird numbers and this effect is expected here.
This project is a good example of what collaboration can achieve and the Estates are delighted to be involved.
Thank you to the RSPB for the image we have shared.