Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Tuesday 17th February 2015

Weather; Mainly overcast with some sunny spells. Wind  W f3

A decent assortment of birds in the Neston Old Quay area today. Out on the saltmarsh were 2 Merlins, a ringtail Hen Harrier, 2 Great White Egrets, over 60 Skylarks and 11 Rock Pipits. 

The Rock Pipits wintering on the saltmarsh are now thought likely to be of the Scandinavian race littoralis. This race is in most cases identical with our British Rock Pipits (petrosus race), especially in winter plumage. A minority of individuals can be told apart, however, and there was at one obvious littoralis seen.  There is a major habitat difference between Rock and Water Pipits at the Old Quay, Rock Pipits being found well out on the saltmarsh whereas Water Pipits are restricted to the freshwater influenced area of the marsh just in front of the Old Quay. They are often present along the freshwater stream. 2 Birds were here today. Confusion between littoralis Rock Pipits and Water Pipits does occur on high spring tides when both species are forced off the marsh together. Otherwise confusion between the two at this location may have been overstated in the past.

Water Pipit in winter plumage, Neston sewage works. An I.D. clincher can be seen here. Note the pure white along the whole of the outer web of the outermost tail feather and on the tip of the inner web. Note also the white wedge towards the tip of the outer web of the second outermost tail feather. All races of Rock Pipit lack this latter feature with most showing a rather greyish white colour along the outermost tail feather only, although some littoralis birds can appear white here, .     EW  
Scandinavian Rock Pipit (littoralis race), Neston saltmarsh around 1 mile out from Old Quay. A bad shot but they are very shy!! A very grey and white bird with a strong white super and white wing bars. The slight brown cast is caused by the direct sunlight and the foreground vegetation. In life the whole of the upperparts including the rump and upper tail coverts were the same shade of blue-grey. The grey rump colour is never shown by Water Pipit. Note the thick and diffuse underpart streaking, especially on the flanks, compared with that of Water Pipit, but sharing the white ground colour of the underparts. This bird may already be in summer plumage.   EW
Another Water Pipit was well seen on the eastern sprinkler bed of the Nearby Neston sewage works viewable from the eastern boundary fence along the line of Birch trees. Very muddy here, take wellies. 3 Chiffchaff, 50 Redwing, 8 Meadow Pipits and 4 Grey Wagtails were also in the area.
Water Pipit in winter plumage at Neston sewage works. A well streaked individual. The streaking, however, is weaker on the flanks, unlike with Rock Pipits, Note the warm brown tone of the upperparts, becoming especially obvious on the rump and upper tail coverts. Other pointers are the greyish tone on the nape, (not as distinct on this bird as on others), the long white super and white wing bars. (These last two features, however, can be shared with some littoralis Rock Pipits, especially those in summer plumage) The leg colour of both Water and Rock Pipits can be variable, especially in winter.         EW      

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