Account of the Buff-bellied Pipit:
Just after lunch, Lewis Hooper and I decided to go birding together for no apparent reason. Credit to Lewis actually, because this late into a season of living on a small island, most people will do all they can to avoid any contact with me. Much less go on a walk of all things! Never-the-less, I would be glad of this decision in the coming hours.
We walked up to Nant and checked the Plantation, quietly hoping a Barred Warbler or some such thing would hop out. However, it was blowing a gale and after twenty or thirty minutes we came to the startling conclusion that there wasn't much there, so we headed down to the coast. We walked along North End. Lewis was sticking a bit closer inland than me, we did see a Golden Plover which is a decent bird for the island, so we were fairly happy with that small something. Lewis then got onto some Kittiwakes on West Coast that were circling erratically 100m or so out to sea, but one of them was just a bit further away and acting a bit more erratically than the others, almost looking like a Sabine's Gull. It was frustrating, the wind made it hard to stay fixed on the bird and the light kept catching its back in a way that made it look distinctly dark... It then flew upwards, turned its back towards us, perfectly displaying just how much of a Kittiwake it was. Perfect...
After that disappointment (not to knock Kittiwakes too much), Lewis said he would go a bit more inland again. He disappeared, and I pottered along the coast. I took a look inside each geo as I came to it, the first had nothing, the second, though, had a pipit at the bottom right next to the sea.
Even from 30 metres away, without bins it was different looking. The borders to the tertials and greater coverts were so much paler than the Rock Pipit I was expecting to see. I was looking at this bird for thirty seconds and by the time it hopped out of sight I had successfully forgotten what on earth a Rock Pipit/Water Pipit/Meadow Pipit/every kind of Pipit looked like, and I was just about losing my mind!
Lewis must have seen me scratching my head and crying into my binoculars from across the field because he had started to walk over to me. When he arrived I asked him what he thought of this pipit, he looked with his bare eyes and said "probs just a 'rockit', isn't it?" (paraphrasing slightly). I said "yeah, but it's weird...", he took a quick photo of it from across the geo and zoomed in, then he looked up at me, back to his camera screen, then back at me and exclaimed "mate, what is going on, your'e making me forget everything I know!". I was happy to hear this because now he was in my world! It flew back at us and he got a picture of its face, thank goodness! It was NOT a Rock Pipit and NOT a Water Pipit, no way on earth, I simply refused to believe it!
After a couple more minutes he asked; "are we both thinking the same thing? What are you thinking it is?", I said " a B...", he nodded along, and I finished "a B-b Pipit". He was happy to hear this and we spent about ten or fifteen minutes thinking of reasons why it wasn't a Buff-bellied Pipit. Lewis had the Collins app on his phone and everything was adding up! Dark legs that have a dark red tint when viewed closely, less streaked mantle and crown, pale lores, buff underparts etc... This was getting exciting!
I radioed Steve; "Steve Obs, Steve Obs, this is Sam", "Go ahead Sam", "hi, I'm down on the West Coast opposite Carreg with Lewis and we've got a really dodgy looking pipit, I don't want to get too excited but it looks pretty good for Buff-bellied..!". The next thing I heard was Steve radioing George (Dunbar) saying "George, grab my 'scope!!"
They arrived ten minutes later, Lewis showed Steve his photos, and he was pretty happy with them. We all saw the bird again, me, Lewis, Steve, George and Kevin (Clements). Steve then said the very satisfying words: "that's a first for Wales, Lewis". What Brilliant moment, the second 'rare moment' I've shared with Lewis, and although not as 'mega' or as good looking as that warbler in May, this felt much better than 'finding' the bird dangling in a net!
Sam Prettyman 2019
|Photo: Steve Stansfield|
|Look how pale the pale parts are, especially the bright white T6! |
Photo: Steve Stansfield
|Photo: George Dunbar|
|Photo: George Dunbar|
|This photo REALLY makes it look dodgy! The face looks very open and pale, as well as the mantle. |
Photo: Lewis Hooper
|Great full view. |
Photo: Lewis Hooper
With that going on it was all too easy to overlook the other birds, which include: Wryneck, Long-tailed Skua, four Arctic Skuas, 20 Goldcrests, 40 Linnets, seven Stonechats, 65 Meadow Pipits, 56 Curlews, 24 Turnstones, four Redshanks, four Whimbrels, one Purple Sandpiper, two Sanderlings and three Golden Plovers.