From January 2021, three species will be removed from the list of those requiring descriptions by the Fife Local Records Committee: Goshawk, Nuthatch and Lapland Bunting.
A summary of the reasons for removal are provided below.
An established breeding bird in the county, Goshawk has been monitored by the Fife Goshawk Study Group since 2016, with a minimum of 20 different territorial pairs recorded during that time. Most ‘casual’ records also come from, or near these established breeding sites.
Nuthatch remained a very scarce bird in the county until recently, but we now have evidence of this species establishing itself as a breeding bird; territorial pairs have been recorded at three different sites between 2017 and 2020 (along with additional records of short stay singles at other locations during this period), with an unsuccessful breeding attempt at one of these sites in 2019 followed by the first confirmed breeding for Fife at a different site in 2020. This is also a distinctive looking species which does not present identification issues.
Many of you will be aware via FBN that the winter of 2020-2021 has seen regular reports of this species in the Kingsbarns to Crail area. Observers estimate that there has been 30+ at five locations so far. Although this winter appears to be producing above average numbers of Lapland Buntings in line with a large influx into Britain during autumn 2020, there is evidence that this species is present in varying numbers every winter on stubble in the East Neuk of Fife. Experienced observers confirm this pattern over 15+ years of observations and the numbers being recorded currently are not unprecedented; there were up to 70 at Wormiston in October 2010 (FBR 2010) and going back further, up to 34 at Crail Airfield in April 1988 (FBR 1988).
Looking at data from BirdTrack for the four-year period 2016-2019 there were 28 records, only three of these were submitted to the FLRC. Understandably, observers are often reluctant to submit records as encounters frequently involve birds in flight, which rely on flight calls for identification with limited plumage details. Concerns were raised that a too strict assessment of this species by the FLRC results in a false picture of Lapland Bunting status in Fife. While a reluctance to submit records is not, on its own, necessarily a reason for removing species from the FLRC list, in the case of Lapland Bunting the FLRC feels that the established pattern of occurrence at predictable locations, often involving flocks of birds, justifies this approach.