Category Archives: 15) Pipits and Wagtails

Pechora Pipit

Key features on an impossible bird!

Found by intrepid explorers Riddington and Tallack and whose team I hope to join as a very minor sub, this Pechora Pipit is the first in the U.K. this autumn. The bird was at Melby, yesterday (22nd Sept.) which is on Shetland Mainland, on the west side  just opposite Papa Stour.

Unfortunately it would simply would not sit up and give close views. So they resorted to mega recording tactics. Flights shots with key ID features AND a sound recording. Now the latter may not ‘sound’ so amazing, except that Pechora Pipits hardly ever seem to call on Shetland.

and you CAN see the primary projection in one of the photos. Nay bad goin’ lads!

Flight photos by Shetland’s top photographer Roger Riddington

J75A0426 J75A0430a Pechora

Ya’ll need to listen a couple of times-  but remember, the recording of a calling Pechora on Shetland is a mega in itself:

Recording and sonagram by Shetland’s top sound recordist (and ace photographer) Rory Tallack: (in fact between me and you, Shetland’s top sound recordist has access to the fancy technology such as mine, but he was working with his phone y’day – brilliant!)

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First-winter White Wagtails

Details of wing and rump and tail

Sometimes a single image just does it!

Justin Carr, our keen pioneering digiscoper  – Mr. ‘in-fight’ shot – has taken a cracker (and it’s not in flight!).  Two first-winter White Wagtails on a recent trip to Turkey.


In the next couple of weeks first-winter White Wagtail pass through Britain- often undetected. They are tricky. We have covered the subject here in some detail in the past. Have another look HERE.

Or just have a look more closely at Justin’s image. Critically the rump tones of grey are well captured, but also all that detail in the outer tail pattern (average differences from Pied), and in the wings.

South Landing beach at Flamborough has a whole bunch of young alba wagtails feeding there right now and the babies from the hybrid Pied X White pairing near my house must be somewhere nearby. Time to go do some learning…

White wagtail justin carr (1 of 1)


Two first-winter White Wagtails showing off all their more subtle ID features. Turkey, August 2015. Justin Carr.

Spanish Wagtail X Blue-headed Wagtail

“Central Atlantique” Yellow Wagtails – flava x iberiae

by Eugene Archer

Yellow Wagtail_3241

Hi Martin,

Hope all are well there ?

Regarding the Filey wagtail I find it a bit difficult to judge exactly the colour of the upperparts, especially around the head so I don’t know if this will be of much use but here’s something else to muddle up the possibilities:
In western France (essentially from the Gironde up the Loire valleys) there is a fairly stable population (maybe 30% in some areas) of intergrade Yellow Wagtails showing plumage characters of both Blue-headed flava and Spanish iberiae. These bird are usually referred to as “Central atlantique” Yellow Wagtails locally.

Yellow Wagtail_1330Classic examples look basically like a normal flava but with a pure white throat. The blue-grey crown and nape are sometimes a little darker and often there is a prominent white sub-ocular crescent. It has also been suggested that 2CY birds may be more prone to exhibiting a full white throat. I’ve seen individuals with slightly contrastingly darker ear-coverts but not quite the full mid-grey and dark-grey head pattern of typical iberiae as it were. They give raspy calls too, like a lot of the birds around here, but I don’t have any recordings of them unfortunately.

Philippe Dubois wrote an interesting article on Yellow Wagtails in France in Ornithos, vol 8-2: 44-73 (2001) which covers the various intergrades including those on the Mediterranean coast (iberiae x cinereocapilla) which apparently can show the full range of mixed characters !

A few photos attached to show various birds from the Loire estuary region , some with variable amounts of yellow suffusions on the lower throat, some with more or less prominent supercilliums, etc. etc. ! Complicated, eh 😉

All the best,


yellow wagtail_5080yellow wagtail_5096yellow wagtail_8138yellow wagtail_5074Yellow Wagtail_1332


all photos above by Eugene Archer

Spanish Wagtail: iberiae

What they look like…

Trevor Charlton has taken these images in Morocco and Western Sahara in recent years. Most look like straight iberiae – ‘Spanish Wagtail‘. They give a good idea of the appearance and some of the variety to be found. The Filey bird looks very similar. Trevor describes the call as “To my ears, the call is rasping, often loud, sometimes uttered aggressively and repeatedly.

Have a look at these lovely images:

spanish 1 (1 of 1) spanish 3 (1 of 1) spanish 4 (1 of 1) spanish 5 (1 of 1) spanish 6 (1 of 1)

Here’s the Filey bird again:

spanish 8 (1 of 1) spanish 9 (1 of 1)

This next one taken in NW Africa by trevor is a little paler headed, at least in the photo:spanish 7 (1 of 1)


and this next one may be a cinereocapilla– Ashy-headed Wagtail.spanish 2 (1 of 1)

Spanish Wagtail

iberiae or no?

This afternoon Mark Pearson, busy writing ‘in the field’ had this flava wagtail drop in front of him. Speaking to him about it and then seeing the photos- yikes! I would be pretty pumped up to find one such. The plumage- crisp white throat with no ‘bleed’ of yellow on lower border, skinny white supercilium and Mark’s call description sound appealingly good. Please may it be seen again and sound recording obtained!

Mark writes:

“A brief but close encounter with this little beauty at a small wetland near the Dams here in Filey this afternoon. With conditions, time of the season and the glut of southern European overshoots further south, I’ve been hammering the patch accordingly – to no avail, until this afternoon. As well what seems like a very promising suite of characters, the bird also delivered an interestingly un-flava-like call several times….


More photos on Mark’s Blog


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The Pink and Blue Ones

littoralis glory

While we have a fine selection of more subtle Scandinavian Rock Pipits currently at Flamborough- one would like a proper pink and blue one. From deep down in Dorset at Ferrybridge, Brett Spencer has sent photos of the kinda of thing to make ya drool :). Such Water Pipit-esq coloured littoralis are gorgeous – maybe ours have colours still to come…

Brett S littoralis 2 Brett S littoralis 1

Scandinavian Rock Pipit, ‘littoralis’. Ferrybridge, Dorset, Brett Spencer.


Scandinavian Rock Pipits

littoralis coming into colour at Flamborough

It’s that time of year. Especially at certain locations on Britain’s east and south coasts, on migration flyways inland- those Rock Pipits from further north and east prepare to head off. But before the do some ‘colour-up’. Specifically they flush beautiful tones of peachiness on the underparts and blues on the head, grey on the uppers and lose some of the streaking below. A stronger whitish supercilium appears. Flamborough probably as some figure well into double figures between a North and South Landing flocks. At least 6+ at South landing are showing colours:

Some of ’em are going to get even more colourful before they go.

litoralis srp10 march s (1 of 1) litoralis srp10 march t (1 of 1) litoralis srp10 march v (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march b (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march c (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march g (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march i (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march j (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march k (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march m (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march n (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march o (1 of 1) littoralis 10 march p (1 of 1) littoralis srp10 march  b (1 of 1) littoralis srp10 march  c (1 of 1)