Yesterday I was guiding Andy from Florida. We spent the whole day in Maridalen and despite a very fresh northerly wind the Dale did not disappoint and we had a very fun and production session.
I was back in the Dale this morning (where else would I be) to follow up on the Ortolan Buntings. They have had a steady stream of would be admirers but have been far from cooperative and I believe many have left without seeing them. It is also only the male that has been seen (or heard briefly singing) since I saw two birds on Saturday.
Today I found that both birds were still present and in the same area but again they were not seen together. Over a couple of hours in the area there was no song and just some very occasional and quiet contact calls.
That a male and female are in what looks to be suitable breeding habitat and have been here a few days would suggest possible breeding but I don’t think so now. When I have observed breeding birds in Hedmark then the male has sang loudly and over long periods of time.
Here the male has only sung quietly and for very short periods. Also on Friday when I found the male I used playback to try to locate him but this only resulted in the bird moving away which would not be the expected behaviour from a paired, territory holding male.
Also one would expect to see them together if they were paired but the only interaction with another bird I noticed today was that a male Yellowhammer twice approached the female Ortolan who then flew off.
One explanation for the lack of singing and lack of sightings of the female is that they are already nesting and she has begun laying or is incubating but this would be very early and suggest they have been around even longer than we have observed them.
However today I observed her feeding over an extended period (45+ minutes) which would be too long for her to be away from the nest if incubating although as incubation begins with last egg then she may be laying? Time will tell.
Other good birds included my first Bluethroat and Whitethroat of the year, Great Snipe, Merlin and Wryneck.