Thursday, 17 April 2014

Idiot's Guide to Pipit ID

Sunday morning on the way to Far Pasture I sneezed loudly as I walked along the road past the wood mill and flushed a pipit out of the field just yon side of the fence and into a tree just up ahead of me. I gave it a scan with the bins and saw a very clean and distinctively marked bird, with an overall golden tone.
Not being up on my pipit ID as we don't get a lot these parts, (especially as good a view as this, parked up in a tree on a glorious sunny day) I made mental notes of the distinguishing features before it flew up and over the field, into the row of trees beyond, where I watched it flit about for a minute or so and got the world's worst pipit photograph (to go with my collection of other world's worsts) until it flew up again, this time away out of sight upriver.
Apart from anything else it's unusual to get pipits here (apart from on the sewage pans in winter) so it was worth investigating I thought.

I consulted my fieldguide with the bird fresh in memory and looked at pictures of tree and meadow pipit.

Tree Pipit looked good, boldly streaked back, well-marked head, very bold black bar on the wing, strong- looking bill, minimal streaking on pale yellowish flanks. Liked it.
So I looked at the Meadow Pipit and saw this :

 I looked at the bird circled and it looked even more like the bird I had in the tree, especially the golden colour, wing bar even bolder in this example, the face just as strongly marked and the bill looking just as strong.
So I thought it must be just a meadow pipit and told a couple of folk I met in the car-park so.

I was still bugged by it though, and googled some photos when I got home and had to admit Tree Pipit was looking a better bet so asked Birdman to have a look if he got the chance on Monday. He did so but did not find anything resembling a pipit of any sort.

Yesterday I saw some photos of Meadow Pipit on Twitter, and found that in fresh spring plumage they have a grey or green look about them, the bird I saw was obviously fresh (so well marked was it) but was much brighter. So today I looked at the fieldguide again at the Meadow Pipit  picture and this time actually bothered to read the caption, and saw this :

Yip the picture I'd been looking at and thought looked most like 'my' pipit was actually a Tree Pipit put there for comparison, and like the idiot I am, I hadn't even bothered to read it at the time.

So there you have it; One Tree Pipit, Far Pasture, Sunday April 13th, no doubt. What a pillock! And a Gateshead lifer to boot.

I went down there this evening in the faint hope it might still be around, but no luck.
But what a cracking little session I had, the cool early evening bringing the hirundines down low so I spent a good long while watching 30+ swallows, 2 house martins and a sand martin hawking insects over the fields and occasionally coming down to the telephone wires, as I listened to a countless array of birds all around in full song, most theraputic. I was also hoping to repeat my Red-rumped find of 2009, but on this occasion lightning didn't strike twice.

Bonus bird though; as I watched the swallows by the gate a Grasshopper Warbler started reeling, three bursts of around 10 seconds was about all I got of it, but it seemed pretty close, emitting from around a fallen tree just left of the gate.
Two good things from that; first my old lugs aren't good at hearing groppers nowadays (I can't hear grasshoppers at all as their pitch is sadly too high) so it had to be close for me to even hear it.
And secondly if my memory serves me right, I don't think there were any groppers recorded at all in Gateshead last year, so this early one is a borough bonus.

Thus ends a funny old week.

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