Thursday, 26 March 2009

Gull chat and a possible White Wagtail

I had to take various photos for school today, all of which were conveniently near birds, I wonder how that happened?
First we went to Linton Lane this morning and after taking some shots went to the hide at the bigger pond.
On my way to the pond I had my first Chiffchaff of the year singing in the woods.
When I got to the hide another birder was scanning the pond. He thinks there might have been a kumlien's Gull amongst the group of gulls, which had just taken off.
We soon got chatting about gulls and how the list of their stages and subspecies is endless and confusing.
We came to the conclusion that I should just stick to enjoying the birds without worrying about that winter or race they are. I am still interested in these factors of the birds and it just adds interest to a sighting.
As we were talking we stepped back from the windows as the rain was coming through, once the shower had stopped a group of gulls landed on the water and amongst them was a first winter Iceland Gull. I left shortly after and the gull, which looked, like the Blyth harbour bird was still there.
After a few more photo stops we ended up at St.Mary’s lighthouse and with the tide out I had a quick walk around the North Bay.
On the shoreline there were 43 Sanderlings with a Curlew and Oystercatcher.
No sign of the early House Martin but I did have two Pied Wagtails on the rocks in front of me. After looking closer at the Wagtails I thought the right bird looked lighter and took one distant shot just before it flew off.
I looked back in my bird book and I’m not sure if it is a White Wagtail or just another Pied. Any ideas?


Alan Tilmouth said...

Ah gulls, I could ponder all day... Female Pied are lighter onj the back and the main confusion at this time of year. White Wagtail has a black nape and light grey mantle so looks like it has a hood. The Black on the nape and the breast don't quite meet whereas on Pied they do.

Newton Stringer said...

Crammy... as Alan says some pale female pieds can look very like spring white wags, a few things to look for...

Mantle colour, white wags are always obviously pale and uniform(noticable if compared to nearby pieds).

Flanks, white wags tend to have cleaner looking flanks, a pale female pied should show some duskyness to the flanks.

Contrast between the nape and mantle, on white this is often striking, on pied the dark of the nape and paler of the mantle tend to merge more....

But....for me the real clincher is the rump colour, white wags have rumps the same colour as thier mantle (pale grey), where as pieds have varying extents of black on the rumps....

If ever I see a white wag candidate I always look at the rump first.... white wags can show black uppertail coverts (but you need to be close to see these),the rump should be uniform with the pale grey mantle, in female pieds at least the lower rump will be black..

Here's a pale female pied....

Hope this helps...

Crammy Birder said...

thanks for your help guys. looking back on pictures I can see how confusing it is, almost as confusing as Gulls.
I still have a lot to learn.