Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Water Pipit revisited.




Alan Gilbertson kindly sent me these pictures ( above) he took of the 'Water Pipit' I found at Bothal Pond. Its good to compare them with my field note below. I seem to have missed the dark blemish on the lower breast and the obvious eye ring. The supercillium looked brighter white too. My excuse is that it was too distant to see these features...( you've got to have one, haven't you).

I'm pleased he managed the shots. I think that this is most likely to be a Water Pipit and not an extreme example of littoralis Rock Pipit. I see many of the latter and some quite good ones but none are as plain on the upper breast as this bird. BUT, I didn't manage to see the colour of the outer tail feathers, supposedly the clincher. A few other features are anomalous too, mainly the 'weight' of streaking on the flanks. Winter 'Water' have neat distinct streaking and in summer have hardly any at all. On this bird they look quite 'dirty'?

I can't get myself convinced about outer tail as a field character. In the hand or in the museum, yes, but wandering around in a water meadow before flushing into the wild blue yonder? I think not. I have never been able to see 'white' on any of the Water Pipits I've seen, mainly because they are lone birds so no comparison ( how white is white exactly?), quite fast and small when flying ( usually up into the sky so the bird is almost instantly a silhouette) and they are very difficult to get the bins onto as they dash off.

Now, if one would just start to preen its tail about 30 yards away in good light when I'm scoping it, I might stand a chance. I just doesn't happen though, does it. I think records committees should be wary of descriptions that claim 'obvious white outer tail'. Obvious in the Field Guide maybe...



Above - littoralis Rock Pipit, Seaton Point. They are quite similar though.

Is it or isn't it? I think it probably is...

5 comments:

Border Reiver said...

Nice bit of info re these, and completely agree about in the field conditions rather than museum specemins. Sometimes wonder if some people have ever been out in the field with some of their subtle difference.

Gawd they're complete s*ds to ID this time of the year against the RP's comeing into breeding plumage. Having the distinct eye ring could be the clincher in my book, and re looking I'd say yes, but I'll ask someone I know who will definitely know.

Good posting BB

Border Reiver said...

Hi BB. A reply "definitely Water Pipit, the upturned bil gives it away"....from someone who writes birding books for a living.

I'm now going to give up even trying :-) BR

Boulmer Birder said...

Ta Br watch this space...

Northumbrian Birding said...

This bird has me confused compared to the one I posted (blog 28-3-08) which I took to be Water Pipit at St Mary's looks to be just starting to show pink on the breast and streaks fading, with clear white outer tail feathers which is on all the photos I got ,but not the features shown on the Bothal bird,which I did not get to see.

Boulmer Birder said...

They can be very variable Brian. Your pic looks like a littoralis but the white outer tail tells a different story. Maybe just not as advanced into summer plumage.