Friday, 14 August 2009

Tartan, Celtic or Wallace's?

I spend much of the year looking forward to the ten or so weeks between mid-August and the end of October. Autumn days offer so much promise and the pace of movement is a little more relaxed than in Spring giving a middle aged birder carrying an extra stone without the camera bag a chance to catch some of the great birds on offer.

With rain forecast for late morning here in Northumberland I was up and out at six for the first of what will hopefully be several visits to Newbiggin this Autumn. Early sunshine gave way to cloud but I was firmly in the silver lining this morning, stacks of material even if it was a little short on quality birds. I shot 400+ images in the three hours I was out so it'll take me a while to sort it all out but I've pulled out three to highlight that even with our commonest birds there can be something different to see.

Yes, it's a bog standard seen them by the million Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis, nothing new there then is there? So try these two, not the best images but I was lacking cover.

And your thinking "yeah, right, another two Meadow Pipit" and you're right but this one (same bird in both photos) isn't just any old Meadow Pipit its Anthus pratensis whistleri.
Whistleri is the Irish and west Scotland race of Meadow Pipit and as you can see has a much deeper cinnamon buff ground colour on the underparts and darker streaking on the upperparts. I had vague notions that there was some plumage variation but after referring to BWPi it soon became all clear.
The only disappointment is that it doesn't have a special English name like 'Channel' Wagtail or 'Nordic' Jackdaw, given it's distribution there seems so many fantastic options so let's try and introduce one, lets break some new ground, my best three choices below, highlight your favourite or add one of your own in the comments
So in no particular order we could have

'Tartan' Meadow Pipit
'Celtic' Meadow Pipit
'Wallace's' Meadow Pipit

Edit 15/08/09

After Stewart's comment I thought I'd add the text and plate from BWPi so you can see the information that is available. (If i'm sued for copyright its been nice blogging). Having searched the net tonight I can find no other images available for whistleri.
Slight and clinal. A. p. whistleri from Ireland and western Scotland on average deeper and redder olive-brown above, and with slightly heavier black streaks; streaks on underparts similar to typical nominate pratensis from Scandinavia, but ground-colour of chest, sides of breast, and flanks markedly deeper, cinnamon-buff.


Stewart said...

Hi Alan, I lost my first comment somehow, maybe you have recieved it/ Anyway it was like this.

I see your 'whistleri' is in quite heavy moult, even in the wings. Its unusual for passerines to migrate in this state, so maybe your bird is a rufous local breeder. They are very variable. I have looked for whistleri for years in the field and in the hand and have yet to see a convincing example that could not just be explained by plumage variation. I dont think there are any absolute diagnostic features in the field despite what DIMW would have us believe. He is the same with Skylarks. Without a string of museum specimens from a known provenance they are all just Meadow Pipits to me... even the Skylarks ! :)

Alan Tilmouth said...

Your right about the moult Stewart but I've never seen a better canditate, the pics because they are large crops dont do the bird justice. the contrast with all the other Mipits present was extremely striking, more so than I've ever seen before.From the reading I have done I agree that there are no absolutes in the field, certainly no structural or bare part differences have been documented so we are left with plumage variation and I guess this one was at the extreme end of my experience hence the post.