At least one classic tristis race Chiffchaff is among the birds ranging along the tidal wrack between Neston Old Quay and Denhall Lane (See December 13th post) This has been since heard to call by several observers, and appears to fulfil all the current identification requirements. There is another bird also thought likely to be one. However not all birds appearing to be tristis are. Both the following 2 pictures are of the same individual photographed at Denhall Lane. In the first shot it appears to have many classic tristis features, no obvious olive or yellow tones, buff wash on super and cheeks e.t.c. On the second heavily cropped shot, however, an olive yellow tinge can be seen on the forehead and start of the super. Furthermore there are rivulets of olive green feathering visible on the mantle.This bird called once, a very untristis like hueet, higher pitched than the usual call of collybita. So what race is this? It is certainly not a definite tristis.We would have once lobbed this in as an abietinus which where we put all the indeterminate birds. Current thinking is that this race is much rarer than tristis, in the U.K,however, and it may no longer be used as a label for all the indeterminate birds. Could it be form the West Siberian form fulvescens? This race is supposed to have traces of yellow. Could it just be a very pale collybita? I have absolutely no idea what race this bird is and birds like this are no doubt the reason Siberian Chiffchaffs, distinctive if all features can be seen, are having such a hard time getting split, if at all they should be! These fascinating little headscratchers certainly need to be identified with caution!
SW-2, mild and cloudy Boxing day highlights came from South Wirral. The Buff bellied Pipit put on a splendid show in the tide wrack at the end of Denhall lane where there was also an exceptionally late or possibly wintering Wheatear. Several Chiffchaffs flitted between the tide wrack and the roadside Hawthorns giving observes the chance to compare nominate race collybita and the Siberian race Tristis. Although light can play a part, what is consistent when identifying Tristis, is the overall, olive brown / grey coloration, lack of yellow in the supercillium and the bright green edging to the primaries, just visible in the photo below. Photos- AMC
Weather : W - 6, very cold The Buff bellied Pipit remained at Denhall Lane, Burton until 09.30 only when it was flushed by a Sparrowhawk and not seen for the rest of the day. There is every chance the bird has temporarily move to another part of the marsh and may well return to it's favoured area of tide wrack in due course. Below is another photograph of Eddie's cracking find.
Weather: SW-3, Squally showers. Cold The 2013 Winter Solstice certainly turned out to be a day to remember on the Wirral. The story however starts some 24 hours earlier on the 20th when Lighthouse Stalwart, Eddie Williams found an interesting pipit on the tide wrack at the bottom of Denhall Lane, Burton. Eddie persisted and eventually managed to obtain some reasonable views that allowed him to identify it as Wirral and Cheshire first BUFF BELLIED PIPIT. Managing to get a few record shots Ed circulated the pictures to us that evening for corroboration. With Locals on site from dawn today (21st) it wasn't long before we had got our eye in and we were all on the bird quickly. What a bird - Congratulations Eddie. Below are a selection of shots showing the salient features including. The plain brown mantle with very faint background spotting / lines. Pale Lores. A complete and very obvious eye ring. Small yellow, black tipped bill and as the name suggests a buff wash to the throat and underparts.
The recent tidal surge has resulted in large numbers of passerines feeding on the tidal wrack left behind. In the Neston area at least 6 Chiffchaffs were feeding between Denhall Lane and the Harp Inn in the hawthorn hedge and tidal debris on either side of the track. Among them was this putative Siberian Chiffchaff which, although it was not heard to call, appears to tick all the boxes when it comes to plumage. Note the all black bill, complete absence of any green or yellow hues on mantle and head, buffy grey mantle, pale buff super and almost white underparts. There is a faint wing bar caused by the pale tips to the greater coverts. The cheeks are also pale buff which reduce the prominence of the eye-ring usually obvious on other races. The rather Bonellis Warbler like contrast between the mantle and the yellow-green colour on the wing and tail can be seen on two of the shots but is not as obvious on he third, although this is the same bird. 4 of the remaining birds appeared to be of the 'common' collybita race while a fifth appeared all grey and could not be assigned to race. Wintering Chiffchaffs are always worth a second look Observers E,W (photos) and K.D.
Weather; SW - 2, mild and sunny Following the worst storm surge in the last 50 years, see link for astonishing video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtGxzujen74 , we were able to get out over the last couple of days to assess the damage and look for storm driven seabirds. There was plenty of the former but thankfully few of the latter. Time today was spent taking some portrait shots of some commoner species however the highlight of today was an unexpected drake GOOSANDER flying west at Walllasey coastguard. Probably the poorest shot of an (in flight, at sea) goosander ever taken but then it was the distance of the wind turbines !