Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rockit at SLRS

Every now and then my lackadaisical approach to birding catches me out. I mean it’s not as though I don’t know what a Rock Pipit looks like, as I see them regularly at Portland Bill, but they're birds you just walk past. I’ve never really sat down and looked at one in detail.

So this morning I popped down to SLRS for the first time in a while, and there on the mud is a pipit. And my first thought was “that looks like a Rock Pipit”, and my second thought was “how do I clinch it?” And I realised I don’t know.

It was dark brown/grey on the back, heavily marked on the breast in splodges (as if the colours had run); an eye ring and no particular supercilium. The bill was dark and stout, and the legs had a pinkish tinge. In some lights it seemed to have a yellowish vent. But it didn’t really have anything definitive.

Never mind, I had my brand new mobile phone, specially selected for its impressive Zeiss lens and optical zoom facility. I’d just take a few pictures to confirm the id at my leisure.

Well, taking a picture seemed just impossible. By the time I’d found the exact location of the phone on the lens required to get a picture, the bird had moved, and I ended up with a collection of pictures of mud, close up. The kind of pictures that normally feature Buzz Aldrin in his Moon buggy, not pipits.

I was saved by the arrival of a couple of Meadow Pipits, which posed next to the target bird. Completely different. Phew. Rich Brown with fine black markings, bright pink legs, a thin beak you could just reach out and snap off. When I moved position and had to refind the Rockit it was obvious which one it was.

Otherwise the scrape, just a small puddle now, held 2 Lapwings, 10 Snipe, and 18 Moorhen. Slowly the local specialities appeared; a mixed flock of about 30 at Feakes Lock held Yellowhammers, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Greenfinch. Bullfinches were occasional throughout; otherwise a couple of Sparrowhawks, a Green Woodpecker, a GSW, and 2 Jays. The whole area looked particularly fantastic today, the colours of the autumn leaves standing out against the clear blue sky.

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