Sunday, November 01, 2020

Pied Wagtails n'that...

The weather at Boulmer this morning was mild and windy from the south, with some rain bearing cloud and odd bright sunny spells.  

We headed north along the shore where it was getting less of the annoying wind. In front of the pub, there was no sign of the Black Redstart but two 'pied' Wagtails drew my attention. One in particular looked to have an unusual head pattern with shadows of the subpersonata race of Morocco. I know very well that Pied and White Wagtails are so variable in the autumn that to claim one of the rare races would mean the bird should be a classic 'nailed on' example and be well documented with photographs, so this bird, was likely just a nicely marked Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii .

First impressions of the alba wagtail showing a nice white supercillium and unusually blackish ear coverts with a paler patch below the eye.

A closer look at it, shows it to be a female Pied Wagtail, but even with photos I am unsure of its age?

The blackish rear half of the ear coverts are quite unusual and I can't find any images online to exactly match this bird, but, variability makes things interesting.

Showing the birds right hand side, the ear coverts are not quite as dark as on the left.

The paler mantle has a White Wagtail look about it, but the blackish rump up to the first tertial is a Pied feature. White should have paler grey much lower down towards the tail.

The grey flanks are also a Pied feature. It looks nice and fresh so I suspect its an adult female, a male would show more black above than this. But what about that chequered face pattern? Very nice.

Above - the real article...

These alba Wagtails are very tricky. Is it any wonder they usually get put down as Pied Wag, so without further ado...

This one is an adult male winter Pied Wagtail, showing nice crisp fresh plumage with a primrose yellow tint to the face. The greater coverts all look very white and uniform and the tertials nicely edged white.. 

We continued along 'the front' towards Longhoughton Steel where an errant Halloween balloon flushed a male Snow Bunting from the beach that landed distantly out on the rocks. A Woodcock, fresh in from last nights full moon, lifted from the beach edge around the corner.  Apart from that it was generally quiet though the ever present Stonechats always brighten a sunny spell even further.

Stonechat along the beach edge.

Back at the cars we set up the scopes and checked the beach. As usual the waders were getting a right kicking from dog walkers, but hopefully this might be curtailed soon as there is a new beach scheme coming into operation to protect the habitat and its inhabitants.

This morning there were 31 Sanderling, 100+ Dunlin, 40+ Turnstone, 9+ Ringed Plover, 5+ Grey Plover, 10 Bar tailed Godwit, 1 Knot and loads of Redshank and Oystercatchers. Around the headland were 200+ Lapwings and 400+ Golden Plover.

The only viz mig were a few finches, with 13 Siskin and 21 Redpolls S. 

Offshore there were plenty of Gannets and a few Auks but no passage of note.

So, with another COVID Lockdown looming this week who knows what birding will be available. I am off work from Wednesday for a few days mainly to sort the garden out for winter but with a better looking weather forecast, I might just add another species to my Howick year list to break that record for a second year running...  

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