But which one?
by Phil Woolen and MG
Thankfully I am ill at home. Only way I can keep up with young guns with their tweets, sharp questioning observations and media savvy ways. I had clocked the wonderful find of Eddie Williams earlier today. An (American) Buff-bellied Pipit back in my old home county of Cheshire :). Steve Williams put out some early photos which were a little disconcerting so I rang Phil Woolen…
Eddie found the bird yesterday (20th Dec.) and full credit for exploring and pursuing the ID. Lively Wirral pub chatter yesterday evening between birding colleagues produced a good turn out this morning; Eddie and others confirmed the identification to their satisfaction: It was indeed a Buff-bellied Pipit.
Back to those initial photos. Itan be a nightmare to get photos at Denhall Lane because you are looking straight into the low sun. Steve did well to get any images and some of the issues are due to back-lighting. Quietly waiting for Phil to send his pics- Next Gen birders woke up before I was ready… and began ‘twittering’ all the right question 😉 , the same ones I had.
Phil got some very cool photos. These seem to revolve it, even though it’s not always easy- to separate the two taxa, while many are distinctive, there is some convergence of characters. Have a look:
Overall I see this bird has legs too dark for most japonicus, even though they flash paler in back-lit sunshine. I want nice pale things. The median covert bar is paler but not really dazzling white. The underpart streaking is definitely on the browner side and fine from side on (not really blackish looking). But then the head on shot is scary- does look like the spotting is blackish and spotty. However to claim a first for Britain (which a japonicus would be) from those photos I would want a blacker/thicker malar line, whiter looking supercilium, colder darker looking upperparts with just tad more streaking and some more contrast below being colder and whiter looking.
American Buff- bellied Pipit ‘rubescens’ is what I think it is on balance, perhaps a first winter bird that is now a little worn and faded. Always noting the dangers of commenting on photos of birds you have not seen and how easy it is to be misdirected. Ideally I should see it in the field, but I am not allowed out 🙁 . My limited experience of calls is that rubescens more often has raspy Grey Wagtail-like element whereas that japonicus in Israel sounded indistinguishable from Meadow Pipit. So have a look at the pics. Better still go see it – and make you’re own mind up. Well done Eddie! Thanks to Phil W. and Steve Williams (who sent his images while watching the Liverpool match. What mad world we live in!). Oh and the Next Geners – with all the right Q’s.