Little Bunting photographed by Steve Waite

Local bird watcher spots rarely seen bird at East Devon managed heathland site near Axminster

At the end of January, a rare Little Bunting bird was spotted by a local bird watcher at Trinity Hill Local Nature Reserve, a heathland managed by the East Devon District Council Countryside service.

Little Buntings are rarely seen in the UK, they breed in the far North East of Europe and across Northern Asia, typically spending winter in Southern Asia, China and India. Easterly winds, which dominated autumn 2016, resulted in only a few being detected in the UK.

The Little Bunting was seen at Trinity Hill, near Axminster, by local bird-watcher Steve Waite, who managed to take some photographs.

Steve Waite said:

Each autumn small numbers of Little Bunting are seen in the UK, most often in the Northern Isles and along the East coast. It is thought there are about eight in the UK at the moment, with three together in Cornwall and one at Trinity Hill in East Devon. I was really pleased to see the bird and other bird-watchers have now come to take a look at this potentially once-in-a-lifetime spot.

Countryside team leader (sites), James Chubb said:

It is always exciting for something rare or unusual to be seen at one of our nature reserves.

We often have a handful of Reed Buntings on site but this year, following great management by the Countryside team and our dedicated volunteers, the site has supported upwards of 30 birds at Trinity Hill.

The rarely seen Little Bunting was probably attracted to the reserve by the Reed Buntings who will feed here before heading back to their wetland breeding grounds in spring.

Throughout the summer the Countryside service and a team of volunteer stock checkers looked after four Exmoor ponies who grazed the heath to help restore the habitat. This traditional form of management has developed a suitable site for a range of wildlife including the rare buntings.

East Devon's Portfolio Holder for the Environment, Councillor Iain Chubb said:

The sighting of the Little Bunting is a lovely piece of news, and follows the Bill of good management health that the Countryside service received for the site last month. It’s great to hear that our countryside is being sensitively managed for the benefit of wildlife and the enjoyment of local people.

To find out more about the East Devon District Council’s Countryside sites visit wildeastdevon.co.uk, or contact the Countryside service directly via countryside@eastdevon.gov.uk.