Many thanks to Stephen Menzie who sent me his shot of a pipit by Sandgrounders Hide yesterday afternoon.
Stephen felt the bird was a Water Pipit, but invites other opinions - always a courageous thing to do I think.
He explains: "It spent some time in the tree just to the left of Sandgrounders' before it dropped down into the ditch.
"We were quite confident that the bird was a Water Pipit while we were watching it & assumed it would be a decent bird for the reserve (1 or 2 records a year sort of thing) but after you told us that it was a lot rarer, we sort of began to bottle it a bit!
Not sure why, but apologies if we seemed a bit shifty about it all!!! Anyway, have a look at the pic, feel free to send it around and let me know what you think.
"The only problems I can see with the bird are that maybe the flanks are a little heavily streaked and also that perhaps the bill seems a little on the large size for a Water Pipit although I guess this can be quite variable.
"The question is, could a littoralis Rock Pipit show such a combination of pro-Water features?"
My first impression is that the bird is very heavily streaked and quite dark, so I lean towards littoralis Rock Pipit, that said I only saw it in flight, when it was a rather short-tailed silhouette as it bombed out onto the marsh.
However the bill and legs are quite brightly coloured for littoralis - that could have been the hard February light of course.
A look at the wing pattern and tail would have been handy (I think Stephen did well to get this shot though).
Interestingly the new Birds of Lancashire and North Merseyside makes the point that perceived opinion is that our wintering Rock Pipits are all littoralis, rather than the sedentary, darker breeding UK population (petrosus).
Can littoralis show so many Water Pipit features? Well, yes unfortunately - I remember having to submit a drawing and written description of one from Marshside about 10 years ago, and there is a good deal of cross-over.
But what do I know? What do others think? Is the bird a littoralis Rock or a Water Pipit?
(it's what the comments thingy at the end of each entry is for).
Thanks again to Stephen for sending the pic to me so we could all see it.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...