After the good birds (Eider, Scoter, Divers, Little Auk, Bonxie, Arctic Skua) seen at various points along the mouth of the River Severn this week, this morning I took a trip to Severn Beach in the hope of grabbing a straggler. Unfortunately two and a half hours over the high tide produced little sparkle.
I did have some Pipit-related anxiety, though - infact, I still do. Watching a Skylark pottering about in the vegetation from the footpath, I got a very quick look at an interesting Pipit (c.20 yards away). Please note, this was an interesting bird because I've never seen a Water Pipit.
It wasn't a Meadow Pipit, that was for sure. I've seen many Rock Pipits, throughout the year, and never seen one with such a pale white and well-marked ('clean') supercilium - and matching submoustachial stripe. These two features leapt off the bird. I am not accustomed to seeing Rock Pipits with such a well-marked face.
I also clocked the overall hue of the upperparts before it flew (out of sight but not too far, which bothers me). Grey. I am confident it wasn't an olivaceous grey - as I might expect to see on a Rock Pipit. As a dominant characteristic, I'd plump for pale grey. The light was good and even so I didn't think optical tricks were at play.
Now, I would definitely clock winter Water Pipit if it had the colour of the bird that was at Farmoor Reservoirs recently:
That bird conforms to what I'd expect a winter bird to look like. Pale brown. My Collins says that winter Water Pipits are paler than winter Rock Pipits. The bird in that picture is satisfyingly pale, as was mine. Indeed, my Nils van Duivendijk sums the difference up as "upperparts brown-grey, paler and greyer than Rock w.". I saw mine as a pale grey, but perhaps pale brown can easily convert to pale grey if one is fresh to the species and not sat on top of it. My memory is of pale grey, though.
Thing is, what else could it have been? I've looked at pictures of littoralis, but they don't have the same obvious and clean supercilium my bird had.
I'm just confused because it seems obvious grey (albeit olive grey) on the upperparts leans more towards Rock Pipits, and brown (albeit pale) towards Water Pipits... and yet the supercilium and submoustachial stripe were both as as plain as day. I wish I'd seen it for longer. I waited in the hope it would come back, but it did not.
In conclusion I may have seen a Water Pipit at Severn Beach today... or I may not. I can't tick it. Damn.