|On Friday 30 March 1990,
Arnold Meijer discovered a group of three Little Buntings Emberiza pusilla at Katwijk.
Two days later I twitched them – thanks for the ride, mum!
Although I was still only 11 years old, I really enjoyed watching the
birds. It was not just a tick. Since then, I have always been a fan of
Little Bunting – even fortunate enough to find a few
Connecting with Rustic Bunting E rustica, on the other hand, proved more difficult. On
Sunday 1 October 2000, I found a Little Bunting on Vlieland,
skulking in marram grass and performing well only in flight. A few
minutes later, other birders claimed a Rustic in the exact same area.
The sound-recording I made, however, showed that my bird was indeed a
Little. A year later, luck was on my side. On Saturday 29 September
2001, Ferdy Hieselaar and I glimpsed a Rustic Bunting at IJmuiden.
Again, my sound-recording confirmed the identification. But I had to
wait until Friday 5 April 2002, when Hans Groot discovered a singing
male Rustic near Bloemendaal, before I had my first proper views of the
In the late 1990s, Magnus Robb taught me how to analyse
sound-recordings with the use of sonagrams. Bunting calls were a
favourite subject of ours during nocturnal sessions behind
Magnus’s computer. Over time, we learned how to tell apart
the high-pitched tick calls of several species. Compared with Little
Bunting, Rustic’s tick shows on a sonagram as a high and neat
‘V’ instead of a slightly lower-pitched
‘✓’. Under good circumstances, the difference is
audible in the field too.
With more and more recordings and audio
software available on the internet, studying bird sounds is nowadays
much easier than before. Interesting subjects to pioneer are still
easily found. Obviously, ‘The Sound Approach to
Birding’ (Constantine & The Sound Approach 2006) is a
must-read for those wanting to explore bird sounds – and I am
not just saying that because Magnus made many contributions to it. So
do not hesitate and grab your gear. There is a world to discover.