Alba seeing you

Monday, October 12, 2009

Many years ago, I was in a hide.  I say many years ago it was more than that - it was at the tail end of the 80's so I am able to state, without exaggeration, that it was a couple of decades ago I was in a hide.  I was in this hide (which I think was at Cley) and I was with Mark.  Remember him dear reader?  He said he had seen a lesser Kestrel, but hadn't.  Anyway, we were sitting in said hide and a wagtail was near the hide to the right, and it looked kinda pale.  In our youthful enthusiasm we thought that it could be a White Wagtail and we voiced this.

But then, from out of the darkness, a bearded birder leaned over to us, his face wizened by the salt spray of a thousand a sea watches.  His right eye bulged out slightly more than his left from years of peering through german optics at distant gannets.  He spoke - "You're a braver man than me to call that a White".  That's what he said.  "Really?" we said.  "Yes" said the bearded birder bloke.   He then kindly explained a little of the difference between alba and motacilla, and we dutifully scribbled in our notebook (remember them?) 'Juvenile Pied.  1". 

I went to a local park yesterday, and there were loads of Pied Wagtails.  Cracking little birds they are - all going mental in a big field.  There were many differing shades of mantle and chest amongst them, but finer plumage details were not visible to call them anything other than Pied (you're a braver man than me - it haunts me still).  But now, it seems that techniques in wagtail identification have come a long way.  Indeed, there have been local reports of White Wagtails being identified when flying over.

Braver than me...

A Pied Wagtail doing Jacobs Ladder


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