Wednesday, 8 October 2014

It'll be all Blyth on the night

Thar be mega's out there boy....

Leaving you reeling from my last post I'm back to sucker punch the remains of your brains! Or 'two posts in two days, steady on!' as normal people say. So autumn has fully descended here on Scilly, bringing that old familiar veil flipping between crisp sunlight and biting rain. It's been pretty bloody well eventful up to this point, but more on that laters. First I must regail the old tale of the pipit with a short one.

October had been, for all intents and purposes, full of potential with very little fulfilment. Low numbers of common migrants and lack of any headline rarity had an over due feel to it. However certain migrants such as Mipits had been steadily building bringing increased hope and anticipation with them. Now, I'm a pro-active guy, always out constantly birding, however you have to have a break every now and then so on Sunday morning I enjoyed a nice lie in (it was quiet and light SW after all). I made my out around lunch covering my usual patch of the Longstone area before heading the airfield with the intention of walking the entirety in blind hope of, I duno, a Caspian Plover or something equally pulsating.

On arrival a fair few Wags and Pipits were on view grovelling around like sluts so I did the polite thing and had a good old scan. During the process I noticed a large pipits head, silhouetted against the sky, appear just above the brow, 'oooooo ye bugger', best head round for a better look. I biked to the bungalows revealing a super flock of pipits, wags and wheatear, it was feeling proper rare and my excitement levels were near orgasmic, but not in a weird way. Anyway, I put my bins up and everything went nuts! There in front of me was the weirdest pipit I'd ever seen! Smallish, but big, it was waking/strutting (Mipit style) away adding Wheatear-like hops - it was bizarre! This ruddy little strutter was surely mega! It wasn't just the feeding style, the birds tail looked so short, and then it turned side on revealing a tiny bill! Holy mother of gut reaction had been Blyth's, and this was becoming an increasing reality the more I looked it this bird. I wasn't familiar with Blyth's but knew about the median coverts and all that. This bird was far t distant for that, but with my scope balancing on a fence post I noticed dense streaking on the crown and mantle, the very obvious white/cream covert bars, distinctive contrasting facial markings and buffy underparts. None of this fitted with any Richard's I'd ever seen. Shit was getting real.

Something akin to my first bins view, the shortness and smallness immediately evident with the back streaking and facial markings then seeping rare!

All of that happened over the course of a minute maybe and having the bird pinned down and some idea of what it was it was time to broadcast, not taking my eyes off the bird! Being a Brit, I didn't want to be that guy calling Blyth's over the CB, so put out Richard's or Blyth's hoping everyone would read between the lines. No sooner had I put it out, and ready to transmit a second msg about how small and distinctive this bird was and everyone should get here now! What happened? Oh yeah the fooking thing died! So I scrambled for my mobile and remembered the EE mast was down. Here I was looking at a potential mega and I had no means of contact. Tits.

Excuse the poor heavily cropped 90X digital shot, if that head and bill popped up how excited would you get! Ps excuse the flower head making it look like there's a blueish wing panel! 

A very distinctive bird when it was out in the open at the Airfield...

I stayed on it as the flock gradually moved further away trying to jam some record shots in the process. I relaxed as I saw Spider's wagon full of birders and approaching fast! I had glanced at them and as I glanced back the whole flock flew! TITS!!! They emerged to a mad blond man shouting about this mental small short everythinged pipit that was like a horizontal wheatear, they must have thought I was off my tits! The flock soon came back down and I picked out a fat peach blob on the runway, clearly different to the Mipits but miles away I shouted I had it, a couple of quick shot later confirmed it as Richards, but what?! It wasn't the same bird I just seen, but how could two species of rare pipits be present in the same flock? Evidently quite likely but I couldn't get my head round it. I continued to rant about this bird but began to give up hope of relocating it with my pics nowhere good enough to clinch it. I accepted the verdict and tried my best to come to terms with the hallucination I'd surely just experienced.

More lark than pipit, incredible jizz, I jizzed incredibly.

Yeah BBRC wouldn't buy that I doubt...#90Xzoomwonder

Note the broad white/cream fringes of median coverts, with pointed centres. Only adult Blyth's possess the classic brown-fringed, blunt centred feathers. However the broadness of these white fringes point like everything else, to Blyth's explaining why it was one of the first things I noticed, you just don't get Dick's like that! Pic: Spider

So the bird went down as Richard's through a twisted series of events that would unfortunately mean a lot of people didn't get to see this fantastic bird. Luckily it was relocated by some legend (I don't know who you are but thank you!!!!!) and proceeded to be called a Richard's Pipit for the remainder of the day. I went down and had a look but it was very distant, however it was the same bird! I was ecstatic, however I remained as Dicks demoralising me further. Upon peering through the hedge at the bird at point blank range all the features and freshly repressed memories came flooding back, that structure, all that streaking and covert just couldn't be Richard's. 

I got a call that evening saying a lot of people thought the same and it had called as Blyth's. Holy mummies! Better still epic pics had been obtained. Having been so traumatised by earlier event I'd barely looked at my pics from the find, and when I did I was shocked how well they'd come out and even captured how obviously un-Richard's the bird was. I started a Twitter campaign and continued my research into all Blyth's features, revealing how different these little buggers actually are!! Finally the next day I saw the epic pics and saw everything, it was then that all my self-doubt and lack of confidence in calling such a mental bird evaporated, there it was, a classic juv Blyth's Pipit in all its glory.  

Spider's pic (above) and mine, vastly differing in quality, but exacting in subject. A very lark like bird, incredible unique way about it.

And here's the bugger! Spider's pic of the Richard's showing that monster bill, reduced breast streaking and critically the plainer facial markings including the smallish eye and eyebrow in front of the eye.

Ironically I think the initial large pipit I saw right at the start, you remember, all those words ago, whose head poked above the brown of the hill, was actually this Richard's Pipit. The reason I noticed it was because of the fat-off bill and skyward pointing head, but I must have been so transfixed on the Blyth's, virtually the first bird I saw after moving, that I didn't even notice it! Or it was out of view, we'll go with that one yeah?

Big fat peach. Pic Spider

Phew. What a freaking long-winded story maaaan. That shiz has got me sleeping.

Well, I'll keep this one brief. Back at the end of August I was working in the fantastic fields at Content and fantasising about Bonelli's Warblers. So during my break I had a quick bird around, getting to the monster pines I'd always imagined one lurking in I heard a 'cheee-wooOoOoOooo' call of a phyllosc. I immediately thought Western Bonelli's! I'd never heard one call before tho so intently scanned the pine canopies saw a Greenfinch. What a little pug nugget! I'd clearly misheard a weird Greenfinch call. But then it called again, just up from the finch, scrolling bins bins up I was greeted by the persil white glory of a Western Bonelli's Warbler, all the fantasising hadn't prepared me for the adrenalin of actually finding one!!

Views similar to my initial...

The next day the bird showed gloriously in the sun, bursting into subsong and all!

Typically mental to try and photograph

After dipping Booted on Agnes I took consolation with some feck off Curlew Sands, on sand, on sands.

September was dominated by easterlies bring some impressive multi-species falls to submerge ones forehead. Spotted Fly were everywhere, as were Whinchat and Wryneck, utterly throbbing birding.

Nice to see Kingfishers back, after so many rare brown birds its nice to get complacent about a colourful common one.


After the bitter, and I tell you, it was so flipping bitter, like lemon up the ass bitter, dip on the Agnes Booted I was over joyed to catch one down the tip of Peninnis in mega rare foggy condition.s Mega little milky coffee spider birds, buzzing round with they're big fat heads.

What a beauty! And not Syke's, who the f#ck is Syke's anyway? I'll Syke's his Warbler...

Thanks for the pics Spider

Check out the Bumbling bears blog too for more epic shots.

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