Desert Wheatears don't come along every day and now almost everyone has a blog (RIP Stringer) if you don't have the post out that night your yesterday's news, or tomorrows chip papers. So the day before the day I twitched the Wheatear, this one, if you need a refresher, I had headed to Newbiggin. Funnily enough with Water Pipit and the outside chance of a rare Wheatear in mind. Snapping Sanderling is one thing but trying to track the Rock Pipits is an altogether different fairground waltzer with the kids in tow. I made a few half-hearted attempts and it wasn't till I got home and banged them on the screen that I found this looking back at me.
"Those legs are just wrong" was my first thought. So what is it? I started going through the features, sturdy bill, eye ring, dark malar stripe flaring into the neck, dark brown breast streaks on a white ground coalescing into longitudinal stripes, white tail sides, nice white median covert tips and off white greater coverts AND PALE LEGS. I went and had a cup of tea and read some books (though not Alstrom if Santa is reading), and looked at lots of pretty pictures on the internet from Birdguides, then Japan and Korea. I sized up my options, took the 'phone a friend' (two and several emails). I'd already noted the lack of a super and the smudgyness of the breast streaking was just way too much when comparing with pictures on-line, Stewart hammered another nail in it's coffin noting the 'dark lores' and by the time Jimmy Steele posed the question 'call?' the almost unanimous conclusion was littoralis or Scandinavian Rock Pipit with extremely pale legs. Perhaps one of the few littoralis that could be identified to race at this time of year reasonably confidently (away from Scandinavia)?
Birds like this may be fairly run of the mill to the monster rare hunters but when that japonicus finally does come my way, it'll have been birds like this that have me ready for it.