25 January 2014

Scandinavian Rock Pipit at Fishguard

Went for a walk on the Outer Breakwater at Fishguard Harbour today, organised by the Trust and led by John Steer. We couldn't find any Snow Buntings but a reasonably close Great Northern Diver was good value along with 8 Purple Sandpipers. There were 3 or 4 Rock Pipits, one of which was noticeably pale in flight with apparently clean white outer tail feathers. I managed to get a few poor pictures of the bird and came to the conclusion it was a Scandinavian Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus littoralis). The others were pretty much bog standard British petrosus.

  • The flight views were interesting and once seen on the deck, the clean ground-colour of the underparts was still clearly seen and the white outer tail (T6 basically white though maybe not on the basal inner web and maybe a touch of white on the tip of T5 but hard to be sure). 
  • The underpart streaking was diffuse as for Rock Pipit but confined to the breast and rear flanks and appearing (at least relatively) neat against the pale ground. 
  • The eye-ring and supercilium were strong, whitish, though affected by angle of view and posture. 
  • There were markedly strong pale fringes to the great and median coverts, appearing as strong whitish wing-bars.
  • The upperparts appeared brownish, particularly on the flight feathers with a slightly greyer tone to rump, back and mantle, the latter diffusely streaked darker. The contrast depending again on light and posture.
  • The bill was quite strong with a noticeably yellow base (particularly lower mandible) and blackish tip.
  • The legs were somewhat variable but most often appeared a rather soft pale pink.
  • The call was as for Rock Pipit.
In certain circumstances of light etc the bird could appear more like spinoletta than petrosus. Pictures here:

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