Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Pipit puzzles

Proper birders aren't supposed to admit to finding Pipits a bit difficult. But, as we've established over the years, I don't profess to be one of them, so I can freely admit to finding Pipits a bit difficult. Every now and again an easy one comes along; but generally they are smallish, brownish, streakyish, skittish and non-descript. That doesn't mean they are not worth studying though. On the contrary, Rock, Meadow and Water Pipit can all be seen at my local patch at Swineham at this time of year, but seeing them well is hard and they are generally viewed only in flight when flushed from the saltmarsh.
So reports of several Water Pipit at Lytchett fields saw me heading 'north of the River' (Piddle) on Sunday in the hope of getting better views of these rare winter visitors on the deck. I wasn't disappointed, and although photography was difficult due to distance (a good feature for Water Pipits is that they are easily flushed if you get too close!), with the aid of teleconverters I was able to get some identifiable shots. 
Water Pipit shows cleaner white underparts with finer streaking compared to Rock Pipit. The supercilium is often more distinct and the bill shows a large amount of yellow.
A warmer brown rump also helps distinguish Water Pipit from Rock Pipit, which shows a greyer rump
The call of Water Pipit is subtly different to that of Rock Pipit, as you can hear from this photo.
Water Pipit shows whiter wingbars and white tail sides...
...and unstreaked upperparts compared to Rock Pipit
Another view of Water Pipit's sparsely streaked underparts, with fine streaking 
In spring and summer, the Scandanavian sub-species of Rock Pipit littoralis can look confusingly like summer plumaged Water Pipit, with grey head and upperparts and a salmon pink wash on the breast... 
However, littoralis, which I presume this to be, shows heavy streaking on the breast (Water Pipit little or none)...
...and a grey rump (warm brown in Water Pipit)
A regulation Rock Pipit at Baiter Park a few weeks ago, included for comparison
Meadow Pipit is altogether streakier than Water Pipit and a warmer brown colour
Meadow Pipit

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