Saturday, 3 January 2015

Godlewski's and Vieillot's: on my year list

After missing a born-out-of-wedlock turkey yesterday, today was a day to reacquaint myself with the family and take a trip to the SeaLife Centre in Weymouth, courtesy of free tickets from Auntie Anj (thanks Anj). The SeaLife Centre is conveniently close to Bowleaze Cove where a Richard's Pipit is spending the winter, so it would have been exceptionally bad manners not to pop in there first.
Richard's Pipit: my favourite shot of the day - the windswept look
A more classic profile - note the long legs, tail and supercilium
While quite easy to locate thanks to its distinctive call, paler appearance and larger size relative to the Meadow Pipits with which it is loosely associating, the Pipit does not allow a very close approach so it took a lot of patience and wet knees to get close enough for a few shots. A definite improvement though on my first attempt last month.
A heavy, thrush-like bill visible here...
Compare to the daintier bill of yesterday's Blyth's. The dark mantle stripes are also more solid and neat - more jagged in the Richard's. Supercilium also shorter.
So having two rare pipits, Blyth's from Mongolia and Richard's from Siberia, on my year list is not a bad start to 2015 after all. Both are named after 19th century naturalists though of the two, Edward Blyth has more of a birding pedigree: the English zoologist has about 16 species named after him; the French naturalist Richard of Luneville just the one, and even that was described not by him but by his countryman Vieillot, who just named it after Richard in tribute.
Another look at that large bill

The long tail in bouncing flight gave a wagtail-like impression
Blyth's Pipit is also known as Godlewski's Pipit, after another 19th century zoologist, this one Polish, so but for some ancient argy-bargy at the Linnean Society, I could have been looking at Godlewski's and Vieillot's Pipits over the last couple of days. Not as easy to pronounce as Blyth's and Richard's, but certainly worth more in Scrabble. 
Field guides highlight the differences in median coverts as a good way of differentiating Richard's from Blyth's: on Richard's (this picture) the dark centres are more triangular and diffuse... Blyth's the dark centres are squarer and more sharply defined. There is also more contrast in median and greater coverts creating more distinct wingbars, though this is perhaps accentuated in these shots by the sunny conditions yesterday for the Blyth's, and the complete absence of any sun today for the Richard's.

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